Accepted paper:

Urban sustainability in relation to expanding cities in Africa, where non-formal settlement dominates: understanding density through detailed case studies in Maputo, Mozambique


Johan Mottelson (KADK - The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation)

Paper short abstract:

Urban sprawl in African cities is widely considered unsustainable, while the concurrent urban densification processes taking place, arguably constitute a sustainable tendency. This paper examines the development of three informal settlements in Maputo, characterized by increasing urban densities.

Paper long abstract:

The intricate relationship between sustainability and urban density is a subject of discussion among urban planners and academics worldwide. While the debate is divided, policy has largely been supporting curtailment of urban "sprawl" and enhancing "compact city" development through urban planning mechanisms. While most studies point towards increasing urban expansion in African metropolises, few studies focus on the concurrent, urban densification processes taking place in most unplanned and non-formal peri-urban areas, which arguably constitute a more sustainable tendency at a macro-level. This paper examines the development of three such settlements in Maputo, Mozambique, where rapid population growth causes widespread transformations of the urban landscape and increasing urban densities, without state involvement. This study uses analysis of satellite photos for three case study areas with varying distance (0, 5 and 10 km) from the city center over a 10-year interval. The study finds increasing Floor Area Ratios (FAR) and decreasing green coverage in all three cases. However, the case farthest from the center both multiplied its FAR by 2.7 and increased the number of trees. The cases 5 and 10 km from the city center had comparable urban densities by 2016, thus contesting the significance of location factors. Although the peri-urban non-formal settlements of Maputo are widely considered dense according to local planning discourse, the densest case in proximity to the city center had a 0.39 FAR, which is relatively low for more centrally located urban areas, thus exemplifying the data interpretation dependency of the cultural context for any density measure. this paper was developed together with Paul Jenkins)

panel P200
Sustainable Cities in Africa: plans, dreams, and practices