Comment les Chinois construisent des villes-champignons en Afrique

Par Quentin Périnel – Publié le 19/08/15

http://immobilier.lefigaro.fr/article/comment-les-chinois-construisent-des-villes-champignons-en-afrique_b6635d50-44df-11e5-92e8-19c1da894782/

Kilamba New City, développée par la société chinoise CITIC, est conçue pour accueillir 500.000 personnes et comprend 750 blocs de huit étages. Crédit: Wikimedia (Sous licence Creative Commons).

Autoroutes, immeubles, stades et autres infrastructures construits par les Chinois transforment complètement le paysage. Dans la banlieue de Nairobi, capitale du Kenya, cette transformation est frappante.

Il suffit de voir Kilamba New City – notre photo – pour le croire. Le continent africain est en train de vivre des transformations de taille. Pourquoi? Parce que les Chinois s’y sont durablement installés, et sont bien décidés à urbaniser… Dans la banlieue de Nairobi, on voit très clairement cette empreinte de l’empire du Milieu: une nouvelle autoroute construite par une entreprise chinoise est bondée de voitures, dont les pneus sont le plus souvent importés… de Chine! Désormais, le paysage africain est parsemé de sites de construction où l’on voit s’afficher les logos des entreprises chinoises.

Autoroutes, chemins de fer, stades, complexes de logements sur plusieurs hectares, et parfois même des villes entières… Tout cela va très vite. Et non seulement les Chinois amènent la main d’œuvre nécessaire pour transformer les villes africaines en voie d’urbanisation, mais ils importent également leur propre culture de l’urbanisation. C’est ce qu’a observé le journaliste Michiel Hulsof, accompagné par l’architecte Daan Roggeven. Ils ont commencé à visiter le continent africain dès 2013, et ont confié au site Quartz leurs différentes impressions, et notamment cette question, essentielle: le modèle d’urbanisation chinois est-il applicable à l’Afrique?

Le «copier-coller» est impossible

Première leçon à retenir de leur voyage: un «copier-coller» du modèle chinois sur l’ensemble du continent africain est impossible. Pourquoi? «Parce que les réalités politiques et économiques en Afrique et la Chine sont bien trop différentes», écrivent les deux hommes dans leur essai sur le sujet intitulé Face-Orient: l’urbanisme chinois en Afrique. Depuis 2013, les deux hommes se sont forgé cette conviction après avoir interviewé plus d’une centaine d’architectes chinois et africains, des politiciens, des entrepreneurs et des citoyens dans six villes africaines concernées. Second enseignement: le débat n’est pas manichéen. Il n’y a pas d’un côté ceux qui sont «pour» les Chinois et ceux qui sont «contre.»

Si une duplication du modèle chinois est impossible, il reste que les deux continents ont des points communs non-négligeables… L’Afrique est actuellement urbanisée au même rythme que la Chine l’a été au cours de ces trente dernières années, l’énergie et le dynamisme observés dans les villes chinoises et africaines sont similaires.

De là à penser que dans trente ans, le continent africain sera aussi dynamique que l’actuelle Chine? Toujours est-il que selon les deux auteurs, leurs observations ont confirmé une chose: la mondialisation est beaucoup plus rapide et puissante que beaucoup de personnes – y compris eux-mêmes! – ne le pensaient.


Photos: African cities are starting to look eerily like Chinese ones

August 16, 2015Quartz Africa

It’s easy to see China’s footprint in Africa. On the outskirts of Nairobi, a new highway built by a Chinese firm is crowded with bumper-to-bumper traffic, many of the cars set on tires imported from China. The landscape is dotted with construction sites and, every so often, the logo of another Chinese construction firm. Across the continent, Chinese companies are building highways, railways, sports stadiums, mass housing complexes, and sometimes entire cities.

But China isn’t just providing the manpower to fuel quickly urbanizing African cities. It is exporting its own version of urbanization, creating cities and economic zones that look remarkably similar to Chinese ones. Journalist Michiel Hulsof, based in Amsterdam, and architect Daan Roggeven in Shanghai, began visiting the continent in 2013 to document and investigate whether China’s model of urbanism can work in Africa.

Beijing Road in Nairobi.
Beijing Road in Nairobi.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)

Their conclusion? Doubtful. “Simply put, political and economical realities in Africa and China differ too much for a straight forward ‘copy and paste’ approach,” they wrote in an essay about their project, Facing East: Chinese Urbanism in Africa. “All in all, there seems to be no one single answer to the question of the Chinese urban model ‘working’ in Africa. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes it doesn’t yet.”

 “Now, Africa is urbanizing at the same pace as China did in the past 30 years, but in a process that is less coordinated and aligned.” Quartz: You interviewed over a hundred Chinese and African architects, politicians, entrepreneurs and citizens in six African cities. What were you hoping to find?

Daan Roggeveen: Our focus was the influence of China and China’s urban model on Africa’s urbanization, and in particular the way African cities develop. In every city we looked at one or two different research topics—in Nairobi, mass housing, in Addis Ababa, infrastructure and Special Economic Zones, in Lagos, the Special Economic Zone, in Kigali, the idea of Rwanda as the “Singapore of Africa.” For each topic we tried to find people that have a specialist view on these particular subjects, like certain academics, entrepreneurs, journalists, and politicians.

Chinese companies are shaping urbanization in Africa.
The first phase of a Chinese-built apartment complex in Nairobi, the Great Wall Apartments.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)
A light switch in the Great Wall apartments, in Nairobi.
A light switch in the Great Wall apartments, in Nairobi.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)

QZ: Were there any responses that surprised you?

DR: In general, people in the places we visited were very precise in their opinions on this topic. The idea that the debate is biased, or pro or contra the Chinese, is simply not the case. The people we met were very well-informed and opinionated. This is not a surprise, but rather something that makes our work inspiring.

A Chinese consortium holds a major stake in the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Nigeria, near Lagos.
A Chinese consortium holds a major stake in the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Nigeria, near Lagos. The plan for the new city was designed by urban planners in Shanghai.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)
A Chinese worker's bicycle in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
A Chinese worker’s bicycle in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)

QZ: Do you see similarities between the pace and kind of urbanization in Africa that you do in China?

DR: We all know China’s unprecedented urban transformation, which transformed China from a rural into an urban society in one generation. Now, Africa is urbanizing at the same pace as China did in the past 30 years, but in a process that is less coordinated and aligned. People do not only move to the capitals of African countries, but especially top second and third tier cities.

There are many resemblances. First of all, the speed of urbanisation is similar. But also, the level of energy and dynamism and the ambition for progress in Chinese and African cities are comparable. Driving through the fringe of Nairobi, with its construction sites, road works, traffic jams and advertisements for furniture and processed food one could easily imagine being in the outskirts of a Chinese city.

Thika Superhighway, built by Chinese contractors, in Nairobi.
Thika Superhighway, built by Chinese contractors, in Nairobi.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)
African Union building, designed in China, made by China, paid by China.
The Chinese-designed and funded headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)

QZ: Did you see or sense any backlash against the level of Chinese involvement?

DR: It’s hard to say about such a vast continent. However, we definitely saw increased competition between Chinese investors and companies in Africa, and other countries like Brazil in India, which are also trying to increase their influence. And of course, the West tries to change its strategy to focus more on business development rather than only aid.

China’s ‘stadium diplomacy’: a National Football Stadium for Tanzania – a gift from China to Tanzania.
Chinese companies have financed and constructed stadiums in Tanzania, Kenya, Malawai, the Ivory Coast and more. A man sits outside of Tanzania’s National Football Stadium, completed in 2007 with a $20 million grant from the Chinese government.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)
Eastern Industry Zone, a showcase Chinese project in Addis Ababa
Authorities are hoping to attract investors and manufacturing from China to Ethiopia where labor is cheaper. The government is allowing some private companies to build industrial parks. The Eastern Industry Zone near Addis Ababa is owned by China’s Jiangsu Qiyuan Group.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)

Q: You mention in your exhibit description that the project is built around personal stories of those involved in the urbanization process. Is there a stories that made a particular impression on you?

DR: The story about Cynthia Akatse (see this magazine) was very interesting. She decided to buy a flat in the Great Wall apartments, without knowing it was a Chinese development.

Ethiopian workers and Chinese management in the Huajian shoe factory in the Eastern Industry Zone near Addis Ababa, a Special Economic Zone modelled after China’s southern city of Shenzhen.
Ethiopian workers and Chinese management in the Huajian shoe factory in the Eastern Industry Zone, a special economic zone modeled after Shenzhen, a manufacturing hub, in southern China.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)

Q: Is there one thing you would like viewers to think about or take away from your exhibit?

DR: I think the most interesting thing is the world is globalizing much faster than many people think, with Western influence drastically changing and international relationships radically shifting.

Kilamba New City, developed by Chinese company CITIC, was designed to accommodate 500,000 people and includes 750 eight-story apartment blocks.
Kilamba New City, developed by Chinese company CITIC, was designed to accommodate 500,000 people and includes 750 eight-story apartment blocks.(Paulo Moreira)
New light rail tracks built by Chinese companies in Lagos, Nigeria.
Chinese companies have provided material and financing for a new light rail in Lagos, Nigeria.(Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggeveen)
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