This article by Quartz Africa explores Senegal’s journey on the road to building a futuristic city in Diamniadio as a means of solving the growing number of issues in its capital city, chief of which is congestion.
For the past four years, a huge building site has been greeting anyone driving into Dakar, Senegal’s capital. Sectioned right through the middle by the highway to the new Blaise Diagne international airport, it’s dotted with finished and half-finished projects, the occasional baobab, and large plastic billboards with artists’ renditions of what’s to come.
In 2035, the futuristic city of Diamniadio should have risen next door from the old, worn-out Diamniadio township, and, according to the plan, be the most modern urban center Senegal has ever seen. It’s the biggest project of president Macky Sall’s Emerging Senegal Plan, an ambitious set of initiatives “aiming at getting Senegal onto the road to development by 2035.”
Located 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Dakar, where traffic jams, high housing costs, and overpopulation make life challenging, Diamniadio is hailed by the government as a way to decongest the capital and spur national economic growth. Critics call it a vanity project of president Sall, who is running for reelection in 2019.
It comes with a $2 billion-dollar price-tag. Its 1,644 hectares (little more than 4000 acres) will be subdivided into four sectors of 400 hectares (or 1,000 acres) each—so far, badly linked together. One will be the Ministerial City,next to the “City of knowledge,” with entertainment facilities and the Amadou Mahtar Mbow University(UAM), fit for 30,000 students, an international industrial park, and a “smart city.” Housing will be enough for 350,000 people, with luxury, middle-class, and economic buildings near one another.
SENEGAL’S NEW DIAMNIADIO INDUSTRIAL PARK
The idea itself isn’t new: Dakar was built in the 19th century, when Senegal was a French colony, on a narrow peninsula meant to house 300,000 people. Today, Greater Dakar has 3 million inhabitants, and the capital’s facilities are not coping. All four of Senegal’s presidents since independence have toyed with the idea of a new urban center to ease pressure on the capital. Sall’s three predecessors eventually shelved their plans, but the current administration is going full steam ahead. From Lagos’ Eko Atlantic to Vision City in Rwanda, new cities are not a new endeavor in Africa—albeit the level of success they encounter can vary widely.