Controversy over Wescape highlights Africa’s debate over new cities
Some say Wescape, a huge planned development outside Cape Town, would leapfrog the South Africa city into the modern era. Others say it would squander 140 billion South African Rand ($12.6 billion U. S.) on a misguided urban experiment. Those dueling narratives accompanied the project’s January 13 municipal approval, the Cape Times reports.
Supporters portray Wescape — short for Western Cape — as a model for Africa’s urbanization. The district would feature 200,000 homes, 300,000 jobs and hundreds of schools. Opponents worry that it would be located 25 km (16 miles) from Cape Town’s center, leaving it disconnected from the urban core. It also would gobble up agricultural land and be located near a nuclear power plant; an emergency at the plant could require an evacuation of a million people. With 25 percent of the housing to be subsidized, some also fear Wescape would become the city’s newest slum. Background here from Johannesburg’s Daily Maverick.
The controversy is part of a broader debate over gleaming new cities planned for sub-Saharan Africa. Touted as opportunities to spur economic opportunity, critics say resources would be better spent on existing cities.