How Africans Are Building The Cities Of The Future

The bright Addis Ababa skyline

Photo illustration by Mark Riechers. Source images via Steve Paulson. (TTBOOK)

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Original Air Date: 
December 14, 2019

Africans are moving into cities in unprecedented numbers. Lagos, Nigeria, is growing by 77 people an hour — it's on track to become a city of 100 million. In 30 years, the continent is projected to have 14 mega-cities of more than 10 million people. It's perhaps the largest urban migration in history.

These cities are not like Dubai, or Singapore, or Los Angeles. They’re uniquely African cities, and they’re forcing all of us to reconsider what makes a city modern. And how and why cities thrive.

To find out what's going on, we go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to talk with entrepreneurs, writers, scholars and artists. In this hour, produced in partnership with the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) — a global consortium of 270 humanities centers and institutes — we learn how the continent where the human species was born is building the cities of the future.

Children in Addis Ababa.
Audio

Dagmawi Woubshet and Julie Mehretu were both born in Addis Ababa and then moved to America. They wonder what the city's explosive growth will mean for its unique character — one rooted in Ethiopia's history as the only African nation never colonized.

Length: 
02:50
Lending a helping hand.
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Historian Emily Calacci says the massive migration into African cities isn't following the Western model of urban development. Instead of an infrastructure of roads, railways and electric grids, many African cities rely on "people as infrastructure."

Length: 
06:33
Photo Gallery

When you’re visiting a new city, it helps to have a guide. Dejene Hodes took Anne and Steve on a tour of Addis Ababa, from the Mercato to the financial district. He says the city is bursting with entrepreneurial energy and ambition.

Length: 
04:06
A village in
Articles

Kenyan literary scholar James Ogude believes "ubuntu" — a concept in which your sense of self is shaped by your relationships with other people — serves as a counterweight to the rampant individualism that’s so pervasive in contemporary cities.

Length: 
11:05
Art of Julie Mehretu
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The families of Dagmawi Woubshet and Julie Mehretu fled Ethiopia because of the brutal Communist regime that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie. The violence and corruption in the post-colonial era decimated the hope and idealism of many Africans.

Length: 
03:53
A moment on the street in Addis Ababa.
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Ghanaian post-colonial theorist Ato Quayson thinks a lot about globalization, diaspora and transnationalism. Because he’s a literary scholar, he decided to "read" a single street — Oxford Street in Accra — as a study of contemporary urban Africa.

Length: 
04:58
Teju Cole
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Teju Cole grew up in Nigeria and then moved to U.S., joining millions of others in the African diaspora. He became an acclaimed novelist and photographer, and now celebrates the cosmopolitan culture of global cities, including Lagos and New York.

Length: 
04:48
A building at the Zoma Museum
Photo Gallery

In Addis Ababa, curator Meskerem Assegued and artist Elias Sime have created Zoma Museum as a visionary model of an urban future, using ancient Ethiopian building techniques. They say modern development can be much more than concrete high-rises.

Length: 
7:49
Show Details 📻
Airdates
December 14, 2019
Guests: 
Professor of African American literature and art
James Ogude
Professor of African Literature and Cultures, Author
Professor of English
Writer and Photographer
Curator, Zoma Museum
Last modified: 
December 13, 2019