Wednesday 12 September 2012

Nigeria's aeropolis and the vision of functional cities

It is time for our policy makers to use their vision to propel Nigeria into a full blown progressive flight. This is a veritable welcome to the future…
The vision of Abraham Levitt and his sons, William and Alfred, in the 1950s to build more than 100,000 houses during the aftermath of World War 2 to cater for returning soldiers not only revolutionized the American landscape but Levittown has gone ahead to ignite a global phenomenon and practice of purposely built cities. It is borrowing from this example that it has become imperative for Nigeria to build an aeropolis, a purposely built city around existing airport facilities.
As Nigeria struggles to provide jobs and reduce poverty it is important that it keys into developing the areas around airports, which include industries related to time-sensitive manufacturing, e -commerce fulfillment, telecommunications and logistics; hotels, retail outlets,entertainment complexes and exhibition centers; and offices for business people who travel frequently by air or engage in global commerce. Clusters of business parks, logistics parks, industrial parks, distribution centers, information technology complexes and wholesale merchandise marts transportation corridors radiating from them; this is needed to drive the required growth meant to propel Nigeria to the first world circuit
The Ministry of Aviation has taken it upon itself to attract investors to this new venture in order to bring it to fruition. In a statement by Joe Obi, the minister’s media assistant, it was at Citibank corporate headquarters in New York, that top management team of the bank led by its Head, Global Investment Banking, where Mr. Ray Mc Guire, confirmed the Aerotropolis project offers a huge opportunity for a major infrastructural development.
He quoted Mc Guire to have said: “Citibank’s prepared analysis and road-map for actualising the aerotropolis project objectives were consistent and in tandem with the model already adopted by the ministry and meets international standards and best practices.” He said the financing, operational and execution modules that were explored and considered most practicable are exactly what the Aviation Ministry is adopting so far.
To establish this, there are already guidelines for this -according to the criteria postulated by the expert assessment of Dr. John D. Kasarda and Dr. Stephen Appold based on their qualitative knowledge and quantitative research of the airport and surrounding aviation-linked business and industry clusters that correspond to the airport city and aerotropolis models. They are of the opinion that to achieve this there should be a demonstrated commitment to the aerotropolis or airport city model as seen in the establishment of aerotropolis steering committees, strategic planning, and development initiatives. Most importantly, also the government/regulatory support of the aerotropolis or airport city through aerotropolis legislation, tax incentives or other mechanisms.
Nigeria can look towards South Africa; a country that is already trailing the vision of the aerotropolis. In September 2011 according to the city of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipalitywebsite announced its intention to transform the municipality into a functioning Aerotropolis. Prof. John D. Kasarda was consulted to define roadmap for the preparation of the planning guidelines. Ekurhuleni also appointed METROPLAN Town and Regional Planners in order to prepare a Regional Spatial Development Framework – which is to be the primary planning document of the municipality in facilitating the transformation of Ekurhuleni into the first African Aerotropolis. Pieter Swanepoel, the manager of the Aerotropolis Project, insists that theSouth African Aerotropolis will be formed on the basis of the strength of the OR Tambo International Airport, and that it will be the long awaited restructuring tool that will put South Africa on the world map, and transform Ekurhuleni into the “gateway to Africa”. Dr. Marinda Schoonraad, the consultant town planner and urban designer for the project has also stressed the importance that regardless of the positive examples in Europe, Asia and Americas, a strong accent should be brought to create a unique identity which will put the concept of the Aerotropolis into the African context.
According to Brian Tracy “all successful people men and women are big dreamers; they imagine what their future could be, ideal in every vision, that goal or purpose”. It is time for our policy makers to use their vision to propel Nigeria into a full blown progressive flight. This is a veritable welcome to the future…
Habibu Abdallah writes from Abuja. This article first appeared in Ynaija


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