“We must highlight the rich heritage and identity of African cities”

Iitiated by the National Council of the Order of Architects of Morocco (CNOA) under the theme “the architect and the new challenges of Africa”, in partnership with the Ministry of National Territorial Development, Urban Planning , Housing and Urban Policy, this edition, the work of which opened on Monday July 4, places the profession of architect in the plurality of issues and challenges facing the African continent. These challenges are indeed of several orders: environmental, ecological, urban, architectural, cultural and socio-political. Architecture is not only at the heart of these issues; it is its reflection. It reflects the evolution and mutations and the richness of an entire continent.

On this occasion, the Minister of National Territorial Planning, Urban Planning, Housing and City Policy, Fatima Zahra Mansouri, indicated that her department, to accompany, anticipate and take advantage of the urbanization, opted for a renewed, anticipatory and prospective urban planning of differentiated scales based on hierarchical rules of subordination.

“The Ministry is now in the process of implementing a renewed urban policy centered on the well-being of the citizen, on the quality of the living environment, on socio-economic inclusion, resilience and urban sustainability, in a context post-Covid recovery”, she said in a speech read on her behalf by the secretary general of the ministry, Abdellatif Nahli.

And to continue that this urban policy requires as a priority the revision of the territorial planning system through i) the establishment of a new generation of urban planning documents.

For his part, the president of the CNOA, Chakib Benabdallah, affirmed that the choice of Morocco as the organizing country of the congress emanates from its commitment and its real and concrete rooting in Africa through its geographical position, its socio-economic investments and its achievements in various strategic areas, noting that “our ambition is to make the African architect an essential and committed player for the emergence and development of Africa”. He proposed, on this occasion, the creation of the African Observatory of Architecture, as a space for reflection, exchange and promotion of many initiatives undertaken within the continent for a modern and stronger architecture”.

For his part, Victor Miguel, President of the Union of Architects of Africa (AUA), highlighted the role of architects in achieving the well-being of citizens, contributing to building a better living environment and ensuring a better and more qualitative environment that meets health standards, emphasizing the need to put architecture at the service of the citizen.

In this regard, the President of the AAU highlighted Africa’s unequaled energy potential, in particular the “increasingly evident” capacity of the continent to develop renewable energies, in addition to its hydraulic and wind potential.

The meeting was an opportunity to examine the means to preserve and enhance the wealth of heritage and identity of African cities in the face of the major environmental, ecological, sociological, demographic and urban planning challenges facing the continent. And to debate the challenges of metropolisation in African countries, to discuss new orientations for public policies and urban governance, and to look into the energy challenges for a resilient Africa.

Speaking on the question of African cities in search of new urban models, Jérôme Chenal, Swiss architect and urban planner, specialist in African cities, affirmed that to make new cities or to enlarge intermediate cities, it is essential to “take seriously demographic forecasts for sub-Saharan Africa and its population, which is set to double in twenty years. We are therefore going to have to find new forms of urbanization, but the officials still have to give us the necessary time to check the degree of success of the project in perspective. Today we tend to look after 5 years to see if the new town is working or not. However, this can only be done after thirty or even forty years before issuing a final judgement. We are forced to rethink this city according to its use, the society that lives there and its morphology. There are cities whose urban structures would make it possible to build in intermediate cities, this is the case for example of Morocco”.

For Mehdi Alioua, Dean of the Institute of Political Studies, Sociology and Migration Studies-Morocco, the starting point is that of mobility. “The modern city is first and foremost the product of regional, internal and international migrations. This does not exist without other cities since it creates a form of traffic economy that allows urban dwellers to live, survive or even prosper. To feed themselves, cities need their surrounding countryside, but what about the African megalopolises which cannot feed themselves simply with the surrounding countryside? Even in Central Africa where nature is extremely generous, if there is no interconnection with allies to supply this city, nothing works. A model of an African city is above all in mobility, in particular migratory, residential, logistical, movement of the population but also of goods”, he specifies.

The other interventions focused on the major socio-spatial changes in Africa, due to the rapid growth of its population. This process of urbanization, both rapid and recent, must challenge architects-urban planners, since it is perceptible and palpable through the dynamics of urban sprawl which generate major challenges for metropolitan areas in Africa (depletion of resources natural resources, proliferation of non-regulatory housing, devaluation of the built environment, marginalization of part of the urban population, etc.

M. B.

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