Innovación urbana en Cali y Bogotá

Colombia ha experimentado una transformación extraordinaria desde la entrada del nuevo siglo. Los conflictos armados que se iniciaron a mediados del siglo pasado, y que se vieron agravados con la irrupción del narcotráfico y de grupos criminales organizados, generaron una ola de desplazados de las zonas rurales que buscaron refugio en las ciudades, y que se sumó a la migración natural que se observó el en resto del hemisferio. Las ciudades no pudieron absorber un crecimiento tan rápido, y sufrieron un deterioro acelerado en sus condiciones de vida, que se pudo percibir especialmente en ciudades medianas, como Cali, que disfrutaban de una alta calidad de vida antes de que se iniciaran los conflictos. Bogotá, como capital y mayor ciudad del país, atrajo el número mas elevado de desplazados, que se agolpaban desordenadamente en los barrios del sur. Ambas ciudades se convirtieron también en objetivo de los ataques de los grupos armados, y vivían en permanente jaque y aislamiento. Leer más.

Urban innovation in Cali and Bogotá

Colombia has undergone a remarkable transformation in the past fifteen years. The armed conflict that arose in the mid-twentieth century, aggravated by organized crime and drug trafficking, generated a massive wave of displaced people seeking refuge in the cities. This flow was in addition to the regular flow of immigrants from rural to urban areas that took place in Latin America as a whole during the same period. Colombian cities were unable to assimilate such rapid growth, and suffered a significant deterioration in living conditions. This was particularly so in medium-sized cities, such as Cali, which had relatively high living standards before the conflict erupted. Bogotá, as the capital and most populated city in Colombia, attracted the largest number of displaced people, giving rise to large slums in the south. Both cities became the target of attacks from armed groups, and became isolated under the fear of constant threat. Read more.

The gamble of land: Russians in Africa

When talking about foreign investment in Africa, China springs to mind first. Chinese malls, Chinese highways, Chinese bridges. But Chinese housing? Not so much. Because like so many other investors, the Chinese failed to link the target market with the much-needed quality social housing. On a continent where mortgage markets barely exceed 5% of GDP (compare that with 40% of GDP in North America and a whopping 80% in Denmark!), owning a house is merely a dream for most — a pretty far-off dream. Read more.

Notes from Tahrir: July 4th

I managed to drive across Kasr el Nile bridge at 8:30am to find people already on the streets, cleaning up after four days of protests. I passed the Constitutional Court, where police forces had secured the area so that Judge Adly Mansour, the new interim President, could take his oath. What became publicized rather quickly was the coincidence that Judge Mansour was appointed the Head of the Constitutional Court on June 30, after his predecessor's term had ended. While some suspect that this might be foul play, he has served on the Constitutional Court since 1992 and has held the position of Vice-President until appointed as the leader by former President Mohamed Morsi. Read more.

Notes from Tahrir: July 3rd

The entire country waited in apprehension for the 48-hour ultimatum to end. Local media had placed a countdown timer on the screen while showing the live feed of Tahrir, Itahedaya, and other major squares around the country. Large numbers of protesters started taking the streets around 3:30pm, waiting for the 4:30pm mark. With the Muslim Brotherhood supporters occupying the square at Cairo University, I stayed in the suburb of Maadi rather than go to Tahrir, especially considering the rumors that they had stopped traffic on all major bridges. However, 4:30pm came and went without an address by the General Sisi, Head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). We kept on getting tidbits from the media that SCAF officers were meeting with significant political figures such as Ahmed el Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Tawadros II, the Egyptian Pope, Mohamad Badr, the head of Tamarud, and Nobel laureate Mohamed El-Baradei. At around 5:30pm, warrants were granted for the arrest of head Muslim Brotherhood officials that had incited violence during the protests, and others were banned from leaving the country. Read more.

Notes from Tahrir: July 2nd

In the early afternoon, the army released the aerial footage that they captured above Itahadeya and Tahrir on June 30. This was a political move used to show the huge number of people that had come out against Morsi, and to show that the army is dedicated to following the will of the people. At the halfway mark of the 48-hour ultimatum, I headed to Tahrir once again. Driving from Maadi towards Tahrir on the Corniche, we bumped into two different pro-Morsi groups of protestors, all holding pictures of the president shouting "shar3eya" (legitimacy). They were heading towards Cairo University, where a larger group of Muslim Brotherhood supporters decided to congregate. We parked in Zamalek again to walk across Kasr el Nile into Tahrir. Read more.

Notes from Tahrir: July 1st

We woke up the next morning to find that those in Moqattam had stormed the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters to find rooms filled with Molotov cocktails and other types of weapons. Six were killed in the struggle. Around 4:30pm, the army made a public broadcast giving President Morsi a 48-hour ultimatum to step down. They made it clear that the army is here to serve the Egyptian people, and that the peaceful protests yesterday and their large numbers all around the country showed that Morsi was no longer the will of the people. There was a huge feeling of relief and celebration on the streets afterwards. That evening, Tahrir and Itahedeya – the area around the Presidential Palace, north-east of Tahrir – were packed with a lively crowd. In response, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood called upon all the President's supporters to take to the streets during a press conference taking place at 8:00pm. Read more.

Notes from Tahrir: June 30th

The protests against President Mohamed Morsi started on June 30th: Egyptians all over the country took to the streets to mark the one-year anniversary of the Muslim Brotherhood in power. The Tamarud “rebellion” campaign has been working for the past three months to collect signatures for their petition calling for the President’s immediate resignation; the group recently announced that it had collected 22,134,465 signatures. Media estimates claim that up to 33 million people stood in squares all over the country, in what BBC has titled the largest number of people to partake in a political protest ever. Two years after the 2011 revolution and numerous protests later, there is a general feeling that this is going to be a fight, and June 30 is just day one. Read more.

Mafalala is the capital of Maputo — a story about city identity, cultural heritage and poverty alleviation

"Mafalala is the capital of Maputo," Ivan told me the first time we met in Mafalala, Maputo's oldest township. As in many other informal settlements, the population of Mafalala (21,000 inhabitants) lives in severely disadvantaged conditions, with insufficient and inadequate basic services and infrastructure, inadequate houses and social services, acute security and health problems, and high unemployment levels. Mafalala is, however, also a place of national pride and collective identity, with a rich history infused with the struggle for independence, a landscape marked by colorful historic corrugated iron and wood houses, and a multicultural population that live together in mutual respect for each others' traditions. Read more.

Protests are just the beginning — change will come to Brazil

Anyone comparing countries can quickly conclude there isn’t a direct fixed relationship between economic growth and quality public services. Per capita income can be terrible while total national income is high. Economic growth can be high yet maintain widespread inequality. This is not a sustainable way to run a country, yet this is how things are and have always been done in Brazil, the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery and today the world’s 7th largest economy where 21% of the population is still under the poverty line. Brazil today is 106th in GDP per capita. We also rank among the worst in inequality, at number 17, although this is a significant improvement over the 1st place position we occupied two decades ago. Read more.