CAPITAL CENTRES IN RURAL AFRICA
Location: Senegal, West Africa, Africa
Program: a set of infrastructural and architectural interventions from rain-water retention basins for irrigation to community centres, health centres and student housing.
Status: Research completed, 2018.
Research co-funding: Stimuleringsfonds Creative Industries
The working hypothesis is that urbanisation in sub-Saharan Africa does not systematically translate into a higher standard of living because new urban dwellers are uneducated, unskilled and therefore unequipped to contribute to and benefit from the economy of the city.
While many studies look at the consequences of migration and focus on engineering solutions for the city to cope with rampant urbanisation, we investigate the viability of installing capital centres at the heart of rural communities that would provide education, vocational training and other basic services to the local populations so that if/when it occurs, urbanisation becomes a more constructive process that is proportionally paralleled by a steady and shared economic growth and human development.
The self-initiated research project aimed at developing a design & build brief for a pilot rural capital centre to be implemented in 2019.
In order to address this vast subject, we have looked at the West African region in particular and chose Senegal as a case-study as it is a country where the rate of exodus is not so extreme that it would render any attempt to reverse it completely vain.
Mass migration. In sub-Saharan Africa, countries are often monocephalic and overcentralised around their capital cities; this leads to the overpopulation and unaffordability of those capitals. As a result, unsanitary informal settlements proliferate, demonstrating the inability of the new urban dwellers to face the demands of the city as much as the mere incapacity of the urban system to absorb the large number of migrants: today 62% of urban dwellers in sub-Saharan Africa live in slums.
Unskilled workforce. The insufficient level of education and/or skills of rural migrants forces them into the low-income informal labor market. Consequently, the exponential growth of African cities in terms of inhabitants - thus theoretical workforce - is not reflected by the populations’ standard of living. For many, the urban living conditions often prove harsher than they had anticipated as 70% of all 14 million annual rural migrants end up in slums struggling to make a living.
Depopulating and impoverished countryside. Rural-urban migrations affect not just the cities: exodus translates into the depletion of rural villages - whose economies rely solely on agriculture - from their young population and lifeblood, thus accelerating their decline. Yet the 2017 World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, emphasized that “with 70% of Africans dependent on agriculture for livelihoods, the sector is critical to the economies of all African countries. As a sector its growth is central to increasing prosperity, food security, industrialization, intra-African trade and to bolstering Africa’s contribution to global trade.”