Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kinshasa 2015 – Master Planning Contract Awarded to Surbana International Consultants

Last week Surbana International Consultants of Singapore signed a contract with the Kinshasa Provincial Government to provide master planning services, including a Regional Structure Plan covering the 9,900 km2 extent of the Province and a detailed master plan for the capital (2500 km2).  This is the firm’s largest master planning contract to date.  A privatization spin-off of Singapore’s Housing and Development Board, the company has prepared master plans for Kigali and residential sub-division plans in Nigeria and has broad experience in commercial, industrial, health care, hospitality and aviation projects.
Surbana's vision for Kigali, Rwanda
Urban planning in Kinshasa has a long history, beginning with District Commissioner Moulaert’s platting the cité streets and residential lots in 1912 (See Apr. 30, 2011), establishment of neutral zones separating Congolese and European neighborhoods in the 1920s (See July 31, 2011), District Commmissioner Dendale’s creation of the “Nouvelle Cité” in the 1940s, the ambitious Office des Cités Africaines construction in the 1950s (See Sep. 30, 2011) and the optimistic plans and strategies elaborated by the French-supported Mission Francaise d’Urbanisme (MFU) in the 1960s which led to creation of the Bureau d’Etudes et d’Amenagements Urbains (BEAU) in 1973.  In 1967 the government acknowledged the phenomenal growth of the capital by creating the 24 Communes that comprise the City-Province today.  At the same time, the MFU produced a comprehensive development plan for the City.  The plan was only haphazardly implemented and immediately overtaken by events. Mobutu was only interested in cherry-picking certain aspects, while Commune and traditional authorities platted and sold raw land in a checkerboard, sprawling pattern without provision for attendant streets and storm drainage, installing utilities or inclusion of community infrastructure such as commercial zones, education or cultural space.
Urban Growth in Kinshasa 1950-1975 (Flouriot, 2005)
More recently, the Kabila government has invested in reconstructing and upgrading the urban infrastructure inherited from the colonial period.  Major arteries include Blvd. du 30e Juin and the Avenue Mondjiba extension, Blvd. Patrice Lumumba, and Avenues Poids Lourds, Huileries and Pierre Mulele (Liberation). Joint ventures to develop residential subdivisions in vacant (and not so vacant) sites are springing up around the city (See Mar. 20, 2015).
Ave. Pierre Mulele at the Universite Protestante du Congo in Commune de Lingwala
In 2013, the Agence Francaise de Développement contracted the French planning firm Groupe Huit to develop a plan for the Hotel de Ville (City Hall).  The plan (Schéma d’orientation stratégique de l’agglomération kinoise – SOSAK) rolled-out in August 2014 covers a 15-year planning horizon to 2030 and prioritizes expanding the street network and public transit to access new commercial and residential areas for a growing population, and open up enclaved neighborhoods. SOSAK would further upgrade existing quartiers, bring land use practice in harmony with the environment and promote the development recreational and cultural zones throughout the capital.
The General Development Plan would consolidate existing infrastructure and develop new areas northeast towards Maluku
One element of the companion Development Plan (Plan Particulier d’Amenagement) for the northern section of the city would eliminate the last vestiges of the second Neutral Zone, which includes Ndolo Airport and Camp Kokolo.  The 1967 MFA plan proposed relocating a new town center there, taking the pressure off Blvd. 30e Juin and Commune de la Gombe, which is certainly acute today.  Although Mobutu erected some monumental projects, including the Palais du Peuple and Stade des Martyrs, these were not part of a coherent vision for the area, nor intentionally integrated with the urban fabric of the surrounding area.  SOSAK would close Ndolo Airport, one of my favorite urbanization projects (See. Jan. 27, 2014), allowing Blvd. Lumumba to reach Blvd. 30e Juin at the Gare Centrale, while intersecting with an extended Avenue Triomphal, which would become a major east-west arterial paralleling 30e Juin. Most of the development opportunity zones in the Plan are located along Ave. Triomphal.
Ndolo Airport. Blvd. Lumumba center foreground (SOSAK)
Ndolo Airport - proposed Blvd. Lumumba and Triomphal extensions (SOSAK)

Ndolo Airport center right. Areas in beige are development opportunity sites (SOSAK)
In choosing yet another planning firm, the Kinshasa provincial authorities seem more intent on “planning to plan” than grappling with the knotty challenges of implementation.  There is so much public and private investment occurring in Kinshasa at this time that would contribute to realization of the SOSAK framework and become more enduring assets for today’s and future Kinois.   No matter what final plan is adopted, the government must today confront the need for political will to implement such a transformative vision of a future Kinshasa and transparently enforce existing land use and land tenure regulations.

  • Beeckmans, Luce and Johan Lagae, 2015. “Kinshasa’s Syndrome-Planning in Historical Perspective”, in Carlos Nunes Silva, Urban Planning in Sub-Saharan Africa, Routledge.
  • Beeckmans, Luce, 2010. “French Planning in a Former Belgian Colony: A Critical Analysis of the French Urban Planning Missions in Post Independence Kinshasa”,  OASE, No.26, pp.56-76.
  • Flouriot, Jean, 2005. “Kinshasa 2005: Trente ans après la publication de l’Atlas de Kinshasa”
  • Pain, Marc, 1984. Kinshasa: La Ville et La Cité, Eds. ORSTOM.
  • SOSAK documents (!publications/c20x9)


  1. I'm a reporter and would like to talk with you about this new planning contract, and the others you mention. Thanks,
    Robert Neuwirth
    squattercity - at - yahoo - dot - com