‘The Sustainable African Metropolis’ (SAM) is a research project about the sustainable development of the future African Metropolis initiated by the architecture office BKVV Architects and Erno Langenberg.

At the moment they are collaborating on the project with Eva Vrouwe (Urban and Economic Geographer), Emma van Sandick (Senior researcher/ advisor Sustainable Innovation, TNO), and Jeroen Brouwer (Research Scientist Innovation and Environment, TNO).

The global population will increase from nearly 7 billion now to more than 10 billion in 2100, a growth of over 40%. A growth that will take place almost entirely in the non-Western world and is concentrated, due to the migration from the countryside, in explosively growing cities.

The greatest population growth will take place on the African continent. Cities here are already the fastest growing in the world. Faster than Chinese cities they develop to metropolis with a population of over 15 million inhabitants (Lagos, Cairo, and Kinshasa). At the same time, the economy is growing as well; Sub-Saharan economies are growing at 5% rate and the growth rate is expected to increase in 2012 to nearly 6 percent1.

How is the continent dealing with this growth? Many plans are drawn up at the moment; both master plans for grand Western-like new towns and plans for bottom-up improvements of the informal cities. All are relatively unknown to the Western world.

With the SAM project we aim to uncover the current urban developments in emerging African cities and publish these to a worldwide audience of professionals to learn, and through the exchange of knowledge together help sustainably build Africa’s future.

Our focus lies on the future and sustainable developments in architecture and urbanism in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and how designers and planners can contribute to this development. The result will be a publication; a collection of relevant stories from the contemporary African emerging metropolis, which together show the current developments and sketch possible sustainable futures. The publication should serve to increase knowledge about the subject both in the African continent and the rest of the world and serve as a base for interdisciplinary collaborations to work on a sustainable future.

A key part of the research is the interviews to reveal the most current information. Since the subject of the sustainability of the metropolis is a complex issue, we want to conduct interviews with a wide – interdisciplinary- range of professionals involved in the development of the city. Amongst others, this will be designers, engineers, developers, policymakers, and politicians. In this way, we get an overview of the tasks at hand.

The project consists of three phases. The first will be the inventory of the environmental challenges of the Sub-Saharan African cities and possible directions for future development. In the second phase, based on the first inventory, we will choose several relevant African metropolises to research in depth. At the end of 2013, in phase three, we will collect the articles based on the interviews which will be published during the whole project, and assemble them into one publication.

Robert van Kats presented the Sustainable African Metropolis (SAM) project at the African Perspectives 2011 in Casablanca.