Africa/Middle East - Issue 75 - Magazine | Monocle

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Growing cities

Strength in numbers

Amman [entrepreneurship]

While Amman’s quiet ambiance and cool evening breezes may appear rather suburban, the current influx of Syrians fleeing their homeland, like Palestinians and Iraqis before them, is bringing new business connections and a strong entrepreneurial spirit to the city.
“Amman is an ideal place to launch a start-up business,” says Omar Al Sharif, marketing manager of Oasis500, a technology incubator headquartered in Amman. “Our steadily growing human capital attracts entrepreneurs. This is what defines our city, it always has.”

No one really knows how many people live in Amman. According to a state-funded survey, the city has seen a steady population increase from one million people in 2004 to just over four million today. Recent immigration from Syria means that number is bound to be higher. While the Jordanian government has been slow to meet the new urban challenges facing Amman, preferring to focus on short-term revenue-generating schemes necessary to curb Jordan’s ballooning foreign debt, independent actors are setting up shop. That includes Columbia University, which has opened a dedicated urban laboratory tasked with finding new solutions for Amman’s urban problems.

How much is Amman growing?
Amman is seeing steady population growth – more than three million people in the past 10 years.

Why it works
Centrally positioned, politically stable and with an excellent climate, Amman is an ideal Middle Eastern hub that has few of the barriers to business that define other capitals in the region.

What it should do next
The Jordanian government needs long-term growth thinking instead of short-term revenue scheming. Redrafting archaic urban masterplans, investing in better city transport infrastructure and lowering visa entry costs will go a long way in to improving things.

New arrival

South Africa [TRANSPORT]

The province of Gauteng, South Africa’s economic hub, will lay down 140km of new high-speed rail track if plans mooted by the Gautrain Management Agency are given the green light. Currently the Gautrain high-speed rail network connects OR Tambo – Johannesburg’s international airport – with the Johannesburg central district and Pretoria.

Seven new routes have been proposed that could eventually link the sprawling township of Soweto in the southwest with Mamelodi in the northeast, cutting diagonally across the province. Construction on the new routes is due to commence within the next five years.

Protect and preserve


A new “environmental police unit” is to be created in Morocco to preserve nature and encourage sustainable living. The force will also identify industrial polluters and monitor environmental studies.

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