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Fumbling West and The Rising Africa

KADuring the past spring I have participated into the events that have brought the role of the cities of the developing world as the rising centres of the rapid global development. While talking about these already densely populated cities architect Kunlé Adeyemi refers to worlds they individually form around them, worlds that are seemingly chaotic. In Adeyemi’s view the current trend of urbanisation will inevitably form a network of megacities, which these aforementioned rapidly developing cities will be part of. One example of these fast growing and developing cities is Lagos in Nigeria. The Lagos’ metro area unofficial population is 21 million. Nigeria itself is the largest economy of the continent.
In the image Kunlé Adeyemi. Image Ari Björn 

The developing cities are claimed to hold interesting solutions for the different problems we are encountering globally. Solutions are forced out by the circumstances citizens are facing in their everyday environment. As the rapidly developing cities, such as Lagos, are rising stars of the global development Kunlé Adeyemi claims, that the western world is a falling one. In the Frame event Blanca Victoria López Rodrigues claims that "The third world does not exist anymore". At the same time the western world is suffering identity crisis as the world is taking fast turns. In turns of the identity crisis the populist voices and the far-right politics has become acceptable. Right wing politics and the market economy it advocates have increased the segregation. Here in Finland the reformation of the public sector for instance is on the right wing agenda. From the perspective of widening the co-operative opportunities between the private and the public sector reformation to some extend is also needed. Not all the entrepreneurism is a stranger to the idea of serving the public interest. Some of the entrepreneurs are, along with working for the good of their companies, genuinely interested in the purpose, content and the outcome of the projects they work in. Here in Finland climate in the public sector should shift from the mechanical service ordering to the flexible partnership direction. In the capital area the shift in the climate is perceivable. The public-private partnership approach has been applied also in some of the developing countries.

Lagos, Nigeria. Image eNCA, Enews Channel Africa 

The populated ever-growing cities of the developing world have been brought up as the forerunners of the new innovations. Us creatives along with the rest of the western world have been eager to search possibilities to be part of the scene of the latest development. It is true that for instance the African countries offer immense and exciting visions and opportunities for a person with a vivid imagination. Valuable projects from the fields of the architecture and art have been implemented. As an example of a successful project could be the KWIECO Shelter House the architects Hollmen - Reuter - Sandman and the Ukumbi -organization are working on at Moshi, Tanzania. KWIECO hosts and gives legal aid to victims of domestic violence. In the expanding cities of the developing world the inhabitants have formed their own ways of dealing with the day-to-day life through creative economical, spatial and social solutions. These redefined approaches have emerged due the lack of structured supportive society around. Instead of the regular top down development the poor part of the society with their creative approaches are in visions seen as the agencies of chance.

The developing world and their growing cities could, due the foreign and domestic rush-in, be referred as "The New Wild West". The Wild West is however associated with such attributes as: inadequate governing and insufficient structures supporting the equality and the well being of the citizens. "The New Wild West" and the developers, foreign and domestic, have a latent potential of exploitation. Despite all the enthusiasm and eager to help perceptiveness and rigour ethics is highly regarded in projects gravitating to developing areas. All sorts of projects, services and things can be sold in the name of the development and, the use of the abstract concept of the development in the marketing is compelling. What however is it that we actually are providing, to whom does it speak to and with whose voice and, how do you make sure it produces something that genuinely benefits the habitat and ideally forms a continuum?

Lagos, Nigeria. Image unknown 

My standpoint here is western and more specifically Nordic. Despite the perspective I am wondering what would be the outcome, or rather the long term development scenario, in a situation where the economical rise and the future perspectives of the Africa is contoured for instance by the World Economic Forum. The headline of the WEF press conference "How can Africa become an integrated continent with free movement of people, goods and talent?" refer to fairly familiar western approach in outlining the future of Africa; in this respect, would Africa contribute any alternative perspective to anything or, would the contribution just be accumulation of what already has been seen in the west. What are we actually offering from our standpoint, are we in our enthusiasm and eagerness to help blind to the flaws in our own worldview? From the Nordic perspective we without a doubt have a lot to offer for instance in the field of education. In the spirit of honest dialogue there however is room for a consideration whether we would actually have something to learn from our local collaborators.

There are few links below concerning the economical development of African countries, identity crisis of the western world and the ethics as the world turns.


Carlos Lopes, UN’s Economic Comission for Africa

World Economic Forum on Africa. Press Conference: How can Africa become an integrated continent with free movement of people, goods and talent?

BBC. Africa’s economic prospects in 2016: Looking for silver linings

National Geographic. Africa’s First City – Bursting with a get-rich spirit that has made Nigeria’s economy the continent’s largest, Lagos is Africa’s first city.

CounterPunch. Regime Change Refugees: On the Shores of Europe by VIJAY PRASHAD

Hollmen - Reuter - Sandman, KWIECO Shelter House, Moshi, Tanzania


Ari Björn
Art & Process