Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

The African Manhattan

Modderfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa Modderfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa Shanghai Zendai
23 May
2015
Construction has begun on South Africa’s brand new £500million, 1,600-hectare city, but some are expressing fear over a growing ‘Chinese incursion’ into the region

Modderfontein, a small Johannesburg suburb has been chosen as the location for a brand new smart city, complete with educational district, a new train station for the city, and a theme park. Once completed, the city – dubbed the ‘African Manhattan’ by some commentators – will be home to 100,000 people.

‘South African lifestyles are changing,’ says Anthony Diepenbroek, CEO of Zendai Development South Africa, a branch of Shanghai Zendai, the Chinese construction firm behind the project. ‘Many households are facing challenges associated with urban sprawl. People wishing to own homes are finding that to afford a suitable home they are forced to live outside urban centres.’

The main downside to this commuting lifestyle is that numerous families are allocating an estimated 40 per cent of their monthly income to transport. ‘In some cases, this challenge restricts the dream of home ownership for many families,’ adds Diepenbroek.

Modderfontein will aim to serve South Africa’s middle class with a new approach to city development. Previous South African cities have created arteries along which people travel to existing urban centres from outlying areas. Modderfontein’s builders believe this system will not work in the long-term, and instead favour high-density spines as the only sustainable solution. According to Zendai, South Africa’s middle class is already the largest on the continent with around 8.3 million people.

Concerns have been raised by some about the increasing level of Asian – and particularly Chinese – investment into South Africa, with social media comments such as ‘We’re going to be a Chinese colony in a few years’ and calls to get infrastructure basics such as reliable healthcare and electricity supply in the country right first. However, the ‘smart city’ model is catching on and Lagos, Nairobi and Cape Town are also hoping to adapt similar schemes elsewhere in Africa.

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Mapping

A new, double-sided world map projection seeks to minimise the…

Water

 Water scarcity is predicted to rise – two experts share…

Mountains

New collaborative research from the University of Oxford and the…

Places

Conceived during the late 1800s, Letchworth Garden City was the…

Places

Multiple failed attempts to build on a patch of land…

Deserts

New 'deep learning' technology is helping to identify trees in…

Places

The land around the Kinabatangan River in the state of…

Places

Highlights from the column that keeps you connected with the…

Places

At the end of a perplexing and thought-provoking year, we…

Places

The city of Mosul is slowly putting itself back together…

Places

The story of a unique Italo-Slovenian community that came to…

Places

Bisecting Georgia's northwestern region, the Enguri River has come to…

Forests

A study in Northern Minnesota is experimentally heating the air…

Places

Some of the quirkiest geopolitical oddities are  Europe’s semi-independent microstates (SIMs). Vitali…

Places

Ninety years after depopulation, the Scottish islands of St Kilda…

Mapping

Not all passports are created equal

Forests

The impacts of deforestation are wide ranging. But while some…

Places

Community trekking is the latest development to emerge from the…

Cities

Scientists are using sophisticated data modelling to predict how cities…