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The factory of the world has a new export: urbanism. More and more Chinese-made buildings, infrastructure, and urban districts are sprouting up across Africa, and this development is changing the face of the continent’s cities.
Or so says Dutch research studio Go West Project , who have been tracking this phenomenon for their on-going project about the export of the Chinese urban model to Africa. Since 2012, the group, made up of Shanghai-based architect Daan Roggeveen and Amsterdam-based journalist Michiel Hulshof, have visited six African cities to do research. Roggeveen and Hulshof recently released their preliminary report in an issue of Urban China, a magazine focusing on Chinese urban development.
According to the duo, China’s growing economic and political might have made them a significant player in the continent. Not only is it Africa’s single largest trading partner today, China’s practical investment diplomacy—offering buildings, roads, railways, power plants and other infrastructure—has emerged as a powerful alternative to Western development aid that is geared towards reducing poverty instead. This has led to Chinese companies successfully funding and building many new developments in African cities ranging from the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos, Nigeria.