From the Editor’s Desk

The Editor, The architect Magazine


Why Africa, when compared to Europe, will look very tired when it is all complete………..

So why won’t Africa, in spite of all the talk about an unstoppable renaissance, ‘catch up’ with the Europe? A friend of mine, Paul, a frequenter of European capitals, had this to say after an evening of reminiscence. In his reflections he correctly re-phrased this question: “Is Europe ahead of Africa or Asia?”

The shocker: “No!”

One of the striking things about the present day Europe is how much they rely on the development seeds their forefathers planted. The ancients had a pristine thinking that got it right the first time. For this reason, the vast railway and subway urban train network (the ‘Metro’) is in nearly all cases ancient 20th century infrastructure built in the 1900s. The roads are not any better-all over the road network may look new… but they are ancient paved roads built before the asphalt age on the sweat of their great grandfathers. Many of the buildings they reside in – from office blocks to residential units – predate the industrial revolution. In short, Europe is living on its history. So the truth is that since Europe is no longer investing in buildings, roads, railroads and trains, public work resourcing budgets are in the surplus. Recently, a Paris resident was surprised to see a construction going on. It was the first he was seeing in a very long time.

But Europe has one thing that makes Africa hang its head down in shame… an inexhaustible facilities’ budget for repairs and maintenance. At any one time everywhere in Europe, there is always some repair going on. Whenever there is a broken section of road or building or litter bin or even a window… pass by an hour or two later and they will have cordon off around the area, put out appropriate signage: barricades and detours announcing the beginning of repair work; a train will be stopped for hours for maintenance. They have learnt this: if you do repair and maintain it, you can use it for centuries.

Now compare that to Africa, my neck of the woods. We always look like we have just had an earthquake! Go to a new road and there is already a pothole as though it was bombed using an incendiary device. Kenya’s new Thika Superhighway will have a rail missing, street furniture or signage plucked off. In any building there is a broken window or pipe. No one is complaining and worse still, should you try, and there is no one to complain to.

We are at home with a city in great disrepair but are doing nothing about it. In a few months of a new road, a simple pothole becomes a gaping hole and soon an entire section is washed away. Whereas the old buildings in Italy are the reason we will want to visit Venice, Napoli or Milan, ours are so run down, demanding a coup-de-grace to tidy up that it makes so much sense to pull them down! Europe will look neat all the time with an amazing mix of ‘new-new and old-new’.. .but our melange sticks out like a pig’s breakfast.

Europeans have no qualms about living in 16th century buildings because their forefathers built them strong. As a sign of gratitude to a great heritage, the children use little money to repair and keep them in good shape. The rest goes into welfare, hospitals, salaries and free education, even up to PhD level in many cases. But almost every African village needs a mega budget to rise from the rubble. Like mesmerised twilight girls at the coast we now wait for the next ship to dock at the port. Our latest catch is a Chinese junk!

So why does our renaissance plans feel tired already? Enjoy your read!

2 Responses

  1. Alfred
    Alfred at · Reply

    Hi, just came across The Architect Magazine and had an intresting read especially on the Morphosis Architects article. On the Oct-Dec 2014 Issue No. 7 which building is that on the cover of the magazine please.

  2. JN
    JN at · Reply

    Kindly link us back on

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