One of the most misrepresented places on earth is Africa. Even though the continent is home to more than 1 billion people, there is so much misinformation and myths about its people and their ways of life.
In my line of work, I have come across misconceptions and stereotypes about the continent I call home. This is both abroad and at home. I have heard and even asked about various myths about Africa that people throughout the world believe to be true. The fact is that these misconceptions are embedded due to misinformation, lack of knowledge, and stereotypes.
Among the many misconceptions, one of the most common is that all African people live in grass-thatched huts made of mud and dung. It is true that mud huts are one of the most common forms of housing in rural areas on the continent; however, it would not be fair for us to disregard the continent’s rapidly growing cities and urban centers with state of the art architecture. A simple google search on any city or town within the continent will illustrate conspicuous skyscrapers enhancing the landscape.
5 major African cities and some of their most prominent residential neighborhoods.
1. Lagos, Nigeria
Lagos is a port city made up of a collection of islands that are separated by creeks and the Lagos Lagoon. It is the most populous city of Nigeria and not only the second fastest growing city in the continent, but also the seventh fastest growing city in the world. Lagos boasts of numerous affluent, magnificently architectured neighborhoods.
Located to the east of Lagos and joined to it by a landfill, Ikoyi is the most affluent neighborhood of Lagos. Once a middle class neighborhood, Ikoyi is now a quiet and peaceful cosmopolitan residential area. It is also home to the most established expatriate community in Lagos. Ikoyi has been in existence since the colonial period, a time in which it was an exclusive preserve of the British and the elites. When Nigeria gained its independence, Ikoyi was taken up by the Nigerian political and economic elites. The suburb has numerous high-rise apartment buildings and a number of five star hotels. Prominent mansions built during the colonial era stand next to modern luxury condos and apartments. Various multinational corporations in the oil and gas industry are known to own or rent property in the neighborhood for their expatriate staff.
Both a residential and commercial neighborhood, Ikeja is a well-planned, clean and quiet town with several shopping malls and residential homes. It is the capital state of Lagos State and home to Femi Kuti’s New Africa Shrine, the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, and Ikeja City Mall- the largest mall in the mainland of Lagos. The suburb is an upper class neighborhood with exquisite homes that attract the rich and affluent of Lagos. For instance, the government-reserved area of Ikeja is home to a number of high-ranking Nigerian officials and their families.
Also referred to as VI, Victoria Island is one of the most well-to-do areas in Lagos and has some of the most expensive real estate in Nigeria. VI is both a commercial and residential neighborhood. Residents of the neighborhood include well-heeled Nigerian business people, corporate heads, managers, and numerous expatriates. Victoria Island is also a diplomatic center of Nigeria, with numerous foreign embassies and consulates located in the area.
2. Cairo, Egypt
Cairo is the capital and largest city of Egypt. Its metropolitan area is the largest in the Middle East and the Arab world, as well as the 15th largest in the world. The sprawling city is set on River Nile, and at its heart is the famous Tahrir Square. Cairo is home to numerous historical sites and tourist attractions such as the Egyptian Museum, and the seven pyramids among others. Since time immemorial, Cairo has displayed ingenious architecture. Even to present-day, the skylines of its neighborhoods are decorated with beautiful structures and skyscrapers.
Palm Hills New Cairo
Palm Hills New Cairo is one of the gated communities that have sprung up in the desert surrounding Cairo; it houses upper middle class Egyptians. The plush neighborhood is located about 15 kilometers west of Cairo, and it is a preferred zone for those who want to stay far away from the hustle and bustle of the ever busy city. The compound spreads over 500 acres and provides a balance of diversity within housing types. The styles of houses include family houses, townhouses, and stand-alone villas, as well as natural backdrops and recreational amenities for residents.
Conveniently and strategically located in the most flourishing location of Cairo, Hyde Park is a gated community with some of the most expensive apartments in Egypt. The apartments overlook the ever busy Road 90 and New Ring Road, yet it still retains an atmosphere of serenity for its residents. The lush neighborhood consists of awe-inspiring architecturally designed villas. The Centre Ville apartments, which is part of Hyde Park, was designed with the elegance of the 1900s. To enhance the wellbeing of residents, the gated community also has seven kilometer walking and jogging trails that weave their way throughout the compound.
Located in Western Cairo, Zamalek is a plush district surrounding the northern portion of Gezira Island in the Nile River. The quiet, thriving streets and 19th century apartment blocks and villas make Zamalek one of the most attractive parts of the city. These qualities also make Zamalek the area of choice for most of Cairo’s European expatriates. The neighborhood is a flourishing center for middle class and upper class Egyptians, along with numerous foreign dignitaries. It is one of the most pleasant areas in Cairo, as well as the most fashionable residential district of the city. Zamalek is also home to most embassies and consulates.
3. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Addis Ababa is Ethiopia’s capital city, and the country’s commercial and cultural hub. The sprawling capital is located in the highlands bordering the Great Rift Valley. Addis Ababa is home to the headquarters of the African Union and the United Nation Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). This, together with the fact that there are over 120 international missions and embassies in Addis Ababa, makes the city a hub for international diplomacy with regards to Africa. This has led to growth of plush neighborhoods abounding with sophisticated villas, manicured lawns, and gated communities in various parts of the city. The rapid economic growth in Ethiopia has also created a huge number of dollar millionaires, which is spurring a boom in the local luxury property market.
Yerer View is a new affluent suburb located about 20 kilometers from Addis Ababa. From freehold villas to modern apartments, the 600 hectare estate consists of hundreds of homes. More than a decade ago, the area was just fields; however, the expansive neighborhood now includes some of the most luxurious and expensive properties in Ethiopia. The estate has managed to tap into the growing taste for a high-end luxury property by targeting wealthy Ethiopians and expatriates in Addis Ababa. Some of the properties in the extensive estate are as big as 500 square meters, and are built on plots measuring up to 1000 square meters. To top it off, they are complete with large open-plan kitchens and curved marble staircases. The master bedroom comes with a fireplace and separate dressing room, while the bathrooms have an open space for the purpose of installing a sauna in case the owner wishes to.
Home to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Bole is a sub city suburb located in the South Eastern of Addis Ababa. The neighborhood has a vast amount of state of the art property and luxury real estate. Bole is considered by most of the city’s residents to be the nicest part of Addis Ababa. The economic boom and desire for luxurious properties by Ethiopians has spurred rapid development in the neighborhood.
4. Johannesburg, South Africa
Johannesburg, also commonly referred to as Jo’burg or Jozi, is the largest city in South Africa. It is also ranked amongst the 50 largest urban areas in the world. Additionally, Johannesburg is a continental financial hub hosting major world banks, as well as Africa’s largest stock market. The city is a vibrant hub of manufacturing, retail, technology, and fashion among others. It has some of the most lively, diverse, and creative residential neighborhoods in the continent.
Sandton is an affluent northern suburb of Johannesburg. The area is well known for being the richest square mile in Africa, and it has some of the best and most expensive residential and commercial properties in Africa. It derives its name from the combination of two of its flush suburbs- Sandown, a residential and commercial area which is home to the offices of many major national and international corporations, as well as the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and Bryanston, an affluent residential suburb. One of the main attractions in Sandton is Sandton City, a shopping center ranked among the largest in the continent. Sandton is home to a number of multinational hotels, in addition to the International Convention Centre (ICC). The posh neighborhood is branded as the ‘millionaire’s playground’ because of the residents. It also has some of the most breathtaking architecture in the continent. Sandton has large residential properties in the form of detached houses, bungalows, and semi-detached duplexes.
Located to the north of central Johannesburg, Rosebank is a commercial and residential suburb that displays outstanding and striking architecture. Just like Sandton, Rosebank is a vibrant multicultural neighborhood that attracts both local and international globetrotters. It is a great combination of residential, shopping, and entertainment environments. It is home to the Rosebank Mall, the Zone shopping centers, the African Craft Market, and the popular Rooftop Market, also known as Rosebank Flea Market.
Located in central Johannesburg, Braamfontein is a lively suburb that is becoming the hipster of its capital, and a preferred neighborhood by many. It is the fourth largest suburb in Johannesburg and contains multi-storied buildings that represent both historical and modern architectural styles. The growing market for residential homes has caused many buildings to be converted from offices to residential apartments. Braam, as it commonly referred to by many, is joined to Newtown by the Nelson Mandela Bridge, and it is home to major corporations such as Liberty Holdings Limited, JD Group, Sappi, and Bidvest Bank.
5. Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi, also commonly referred to as ‘the city in the sun’ or the ‘silicon Savannah’, is Kenya’s capital, as well as the largest city in the country. According to the World Population Review, it has a population of over 6.5 million, and it’s not only a lively east African metropolis, but also a key driving force of development in the continent. Nairobi is a hub for many sectors. It is also home to the United Nations Environment Program headquarters, many embassies, and consulates, as well as numerous regional and global international bodies. In turn, this creates a huge market for posh real estate to cater to wealthy Kenyans, plus the several expats living in the city. Nairobi has various long-standing neighborhoods, as well as new and upcoming ones; although, the cost varies depending on location and amenities provided.
Located on the northwest of Nairobi, Lavington is a cosmopolitan plush suburb made up of stunning architecturally designed villas with gardens and a buzzing shopping Centre. The gated community has modern facilities, and it is the preferred area of residence by many wealthy and expatriates living in Nairobi. In addition, the neighborhood is home to numerous embassies, consulates, and international organizations. Just like Karen, prominent mansions built during the colonial period stand next to many new and modern plush villas and apartments.
Located just about 12 kilometers from the Nairobi central business district, Runda estate is an elite gated community that features modern villas and apartments in a tranquil and serene environment. Runda is composed of luxurious architectural designs, and the close proximity to the United Nations offices in Gigiri has made it the preferred residence for many expats working at the UN and UNEP offices. The high-end neighborhood is also home to those in Kenya’s political and corporate class. The suburb has witnessed many different developments over time, including Evergreen, New Runda, and Runda Park.
Named after Danish author Karen Blixen, Karen is an affluent suburb located on the South West of Nairobi. Even though the neighborhood is located about 30 kilometers from the central business district, Karen is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Nairobi. The area is associated with prosperity, serenity, and security. Prominent mansions built during the colonial era stand next to modern many luxury apartments and villas. The suburb houses many expatriates, and it is the crème de la crème of Kenya’s political and corporate worlds. Karen is home to the official Kenya’s Deputy President palatial home as well. The neighborhood is also home to various international and local organizations such as the Karen Blixen Museum, and David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust among others.
These few neighborhoods are shown as evidence to dispel the notions that all Africans live in grass-thatched mud houses. They display that the continent also has some of the most sophisticated, artistic, and well planned neighborhoods: something that some of the international mainstream media has not been able to showcase to its audiences, hence enabling absurd stereotypes passed from generation to generation.