Friday, December 17, 2010

Maseru: Night and Day + Urban Africa

Two different photos of Maseru that I took, one during the day and another at night.
Maseru is a modest capital city, quite similar in population (~250,000) to my own home town of Madison, the capital of the Wisconsin. The population is set to grow substantially in coming years as laborers and families move to the city in search of work.

The chart below comes from The Economist's Daily Chart blog with data from ac recent UN Habitat report called The State of African Cities 2010. Maseru, unfortunately is not depicted in the chart. Even more unfortunate, is that upon examining the UN report, I found that growth figures for Maseru were not listed, perhaps because they were not available (The Gambia was not listed either). Too bad, because I wanted to compare Maseru to the other major African cities in terms of % of population growth from 2010 to 2025. There are, however, statistics for Maseru's access to clean water, electricity and sanitation services as well as the percentage of the urban population that lives in slums. In these areas Maseru fares rather well. With survey data from 2004, the report claims Maseru has 98.1% access to improved water, 74.7% access to improved sanitation and 33.1% access to electricity. This is compared with 82.8%, 48.8%, 28.8 respectively in fellow southern African city Maputo, Mozambique (it should be noted that Mozambique was slightly distracted with civil war from 1977-1992, though it has reemerged on the scene in recent years as an economic powerhouse). As for slums, only 35.1% of Lesotho urban-dwellers live in slums in 2005 compared with 79.5% in Mozambique and 94.1% in Central African Republic.

Another metric of urban living is the gini coeffcient, which measures income inequality. Using this metric, 0 is considered perfectly equal and 1 is considered perfectly unequal. Lower scores are thus more desirable as they represent greater equality than high scores. Lesotho's gini coefficient is not quite as impressive as it's other stats. Maseru has a recorded score of .58, though this data is rather outdated (1993). Other notable sub-Saharan African urban gini's are Johannesburg, SA with a painful .75, Lagos, Nigeria with a sad .64 and Dakar, Senegal with a less unimpressive .37.

Also on the topic of urban Africa, the website African Digital Art had a nice post showcasing photography from African cities.

Aaaand the South African literary magazine Chimurenga in partnership with the African Centre for Cities has published a collection of prose from African authors about their home towns which is called the African Cities Reader, an elegantly designed publication that I'm lucky enough to own a copy of. It's a publication that comes highly recommended, but if you are too impatient or too broke to purchase the reader, lucky you, the editors of the African Cities Reader were magnanimous enough to host it free of charge in pdf format here.

All hail the African city!

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