Hundreds of apartment buildings, schools and retail units sit empty, priced out of reach for most Angolans.
Located some 18 miles outside the Angolan capital of Luana, Nova Cidade de Kilamba, with its dust-swept avenues and vacant high-rises, has been called Africa’s first "ghost city." The 750 eight-story apartment blocks, a dozen schools, and 100 retail units that rise from the 5,000 hectare-gridded city plane stand defiantly empty, their vibrant, pastel-colored facades and rooftops ebullient cries amid the sepia-toned bleakness that characterizes the heat-stroked landscape.
Kilamba was conceived and constructed by state-owned China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC) as the largest of several new "satellite cities" being built by the Chinese in Angola. The $3.5 billion “city” was designed for 500,000 occupants, to be housed in the 2,800 apartment units that fill out the housing blocks. But these remain empty, as the BBC reports, in large part to the purportedly extravagant costs of the apartments – as high as $80,000 – that lay beyond the reach of most Angolan families which subsist on criminally low wages and have little to no access to large loans and mortgages.
Chinese officials have refuted these speculations, with the Economic and Commercial Counselor’s Office of the Chinese Embassy in Angola reiterating that the project had yet to be completed, but, even so, that preliminary sales (numbering 220 units) have met expectations.
Much has been made of the promotional material expounding the joys and conveniences, not to mention “bustling” streets and urban connectivity that Kilamba ostensibly offers. The videos, according to Western reports, consists of staged footage with actors animating apartment units or strolling down tree-lined avenues. These photographs are proof that this fictionalized reality couldn’t be further from the truth on the ground, so to speak. Still, the Angolan government stands behind the project, and all other similar Sino-Angolan ventures, as officials are not in the position to offer any admissions of dissent they may harbor.
This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.