Facing rapid urbanization: a century of East African Urbanism.


  • Alessandro Frigerio Politecnico di Milano




East-Africa is one of the least urbanized regions in the world, but living one of the fastest urbanization. Its urban history has roots in the cosmopolitan Swahili culture and common experiences related to British and German colonialism and the East African Community. During the 20th century it has been a great laboratory regarding the effort of ordering growth according to very different political visions and social projects: almost everything has been tested in planning and urban design, with a relevant gradient of determinism in the designing efforts, from total to minimal. The East-Africans are excellent samples of contemporary metropolises facing the unstoppable proliferation of informal growth due to uncontrolled migrations and unsustainable development. Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kampala, Kigali and the metropolitan archipelago of Zanzibar have already passed the quota of a million inhabitants and the biggest cities are running million after million, with more than half of this growth occurring informally. From the beginning of their urban history all these cities have faced the issue of hosting different communities with different lifestyles, symbols, rituals, fears and public spaces. Their urban history is a telling overview on the relevance of urban architecture in determining their future. The paper proposes and overview on urban design and planning attempts over the last century proposing a periodization and investigating their influence in driving city growth and in contributing to city resilience through political and ecological changes.


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How to Cite

Frigerio, A. (2016). Facing rapid urbanization: a century of East African Urbanism. International Planning History Society Proceedings, 17(6), 67–78. https://doi.org/10.7480/iphs.2016.6.1323