Moïse Katumbi, the first democratically elected governor of Congo’s mineral-rich Katanga province, has begun to turn the place round since he took over in 2007. The mining sector has been reformed, investment is up and the capital, Lubumbashi, is getting a spring clean. He’s done it by personally funding what the province needs (he’s from a wealthy mining family) and by taking a hands-on approach to its problems. Katumbi may not be perfect. Before he became governor he was accused of corruption, which he denies. But if more leaders used some of his techniques, life could look up in a lot of African cities.
How to sort out a sink state Katumbi style:
Ambulances: Buy 60 ambulances and several hearses (there were none).
Spot-checks: Go to the tax offices at 08.00 to check the books – and see who’s come to work.
Music: Organise and fund the Lubumbashi music festival, which features Africa’s biggest stars.
Football: Bankroll the local football team – in this case TP Mazembe, one of the best sides in Congo.
Cash: Announce a minimum wage of $150 (€107) a month and embarrass firms into respecting it.
Resources: Ban the export of raw metals and minerals.
First impressions: Plant roses at the airport.
Abu Dhabi has decided it needs a public transport network. Learning from Dubai’s mistakes – namely a lack of planning – a feasibility study will begin in August and construction could start in 2011. Besides helping traffic flow, psychologists speculate that a metro could lead to a less stressed population that’s more comfortable mixing with different social and cultural groups.
Unlike most other cities in West Africa, Ouagadougou impresses by its orderliness. Well-tended avenues culminate in neat round-abouts. Public gardens add a splash of green to the Sahelian palette of reds. And the heaps of rotting rubbish that are common in Abidjan, Dakar and Conakry are few and far between here.
“We don’t have much money, so what we did was take ladies from poor families [to clean the city]. At the beginning there were 20 – now there are 1,700,” explains Simon Compaoré, who has been mayor since 1995. The women earn about €3 a day, but the mayor says grateful residents also give the army of cleaners extra food and money.
Burkina Faso facts:
Name: In 1984, Upper Volta became Burkina Faso, which means “Land of the upright men”.
Numbers: one tenth of the 15 million inhabitants live in the capital Ouagadougou. About 60,000 move there each year.
Quality of life: 173 out of 179 in the UN Human Development Index.
Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg hosted me a few weeks ago and I was very impressed with what he has done for the city.
And where is falling behind?
As the new mayor of Jerusalem, which is Israel’s poorest city, I am focusing on economic development, job creation, and opening up the city to millions more tourists.
Who are the urban visionaries?
I have been working for many years with Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. He has helped me in planning the turnaround of Jerusalem’s economy and to find our competitive advantages.
Is there a mayor you admire?
I admire Teddy Kollek, the former mayor of Jerusalem. People still talk about the impact he had on their lives.
What are the most important challenges facing cities?
The greatest challenges revolve around the next generation. How do we provide better education? Create more jobs in the future? How do we leave cleaner air and purer water?
Do we need to bring back craft and manufacturing to our cities?
Each city must find its own, unique competitive advantages. In Jerusalem, we are focusing on two business clusters: culture-tourism and health and life sciences.
If you could move to another city, where would you go?
I moved to Jerusalem when I was two weeks old. I love Jerusalem with all of my heart and am committed to returning it to the top of the map.
Africa’s cities are growing faster than anywhere in the world. By 2050, Africa will have an urban population of 1.2 billion or nearly a quarter of the world’s city dwellers.