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Dr. Philipe Yavo, teacher-researcher: « Combining urban and sustainable development »

African cities designed on urban development models dating from the colonial period are now facing several challenges of high population growth recorded in recent years. This leads the African experts to think of another form of urban development now open, which combines the state, local authorities, business circles and professional planners. Despite all the structural problems related to urban development of cities in Africa, Dr. Philipe Yavo, Director of Academic Affairs and Education at the African School of Architecture and Urban Professions (EAMAU) thinks essential to combine urban and sustainable development.


The continent recorded a population increase for years. What are the major challenges facing African cities?

African cities face many challenges arising from population growth. Access to decent housing is a major problem since in most cases, the production of housing is dominated by self-promotion in a difficult economic context. Housing needs are increasing year by year, however there is no structured offer that can effectively meet those needs. We also face a problem of access to basic urban services such as drinking water, electricity, sanitation and hygiene … facing the demographic growth of cities that require significant investments. The biggest problem is access to decent employment, poverty and impoverishment of important segments of the urban population.

You just mentioned the problems emanating from the urbanization of African cities. What about the physical development of African cities?

On the physical level, population growth translates the spatial growth through urban sprawl and the proliferation of squatter settlements. This poses a problem of planning and development of urban space. In the case that this planning fails, the consequences are disastrous, especially in environmental terms.

In this case, how can African states meet these challenges?

The first problem arises in terms of planning. African states should have the means to effectively plan the development of all human institutions. Thus, not only large cities must have planning tools and urban development, but all the cities. It is therefore necessary to integrate the dynamics of urbanization in a holistic approach to the development of our countries. Cities that are creators of wealth may find within them the resources to finance their harmonious development. This assumes, however, that these cities are planned and oriented to maximize the economic flows to ensure a sustainable development.

Does this mean that we need to think about a policy for African cities?

It is necessary to think about a new policy for African Cities. African cities showed that despite the structural difficulties, they provide  wealth and economic growth. Based on these findings, we must direct our development around the perspective of a continent urbanizing  like the rest of humanity. We therefore need a new policy for the city, but we also need a new vision of development of the continent. This vision must necessarily combine urban development to sustainable development. I quote the next United Nations conference on urbanization and habitat declaiming: « It is time to think urban. »

The demographic challenge has led to other socio-economic challenges. Do you think that the different policies developed for decades will be sufficient  to give another image of African cities?

We have to develop a new vision. Scientifically, the African School of Architecture and Urbanism (EAMAU) led many reflections on the future of the African cities. Theoretical models that can correct policies and practices exist a. We must use it. We should also focus on the issue of governance which  is a cornerstone of development. The governance of urban development should now be open, and must involve the State, local authorities, business circles, people, urban professionals, engineers, architects, urban managers and of course scientists like us to EAMAU .

What will be the contribution of training institutions like yours to redirect urban policies of African states?

Our school has an initial vocational training offer that can offer African states of high level specialists in architecture, urban planning and urban management. These products have the scientific and technical skills in addition to being operational in the specific context of our country. The EAMAU also offers continuing education and specialized training for professionals in business, executives and technicians of local authorities, ministries, companies, etc. Finally EAMAU seeks to develop  theoretical reflections and models that can serve sustainable development through architectural models, urban planning and urban management processes.

We had a total of 964 graduates as of July 10, 2015 and that number will increase in 2016 at the next grand jury Bachelor’s degrees in Architecture, Planning and Urban Management, Master of Architecture, Planning and Urban Management, Architect and Architect-Planner. About 200 candidates will take part in the invitation of distinguished jury members whose expertise is recognized across the continent and the world.

By Blamé Ekoué

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