Nova Cidade de Kilamba, Angola’s newly-completed massive ghost town, is the odd mixture of oil speculation, cheap money, and a seriously missed target for housing needs. The state-owned China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC) sank $3.5 billion dollars into a candy-colored city of identical midrise apartments with enough housing units for 500,000 inhabitants. The problem is, few locals can afford one, and the monolithic development feels more like a prison camp than community.
Kilamba is near Luanda, Angola’s capital, and it is mostly made up of a collection of 750 identical 5-, 8- and 11-story buildings. To help identify neighborhoods (we assume), entire blocks are painted in bright primary colors. The development stretches across 12,355 acres with lots of parking and green lawns almost completely devoid of actual residences.
The BBC video of the town shows a few workers watering lawns or walking on the sidewalk but not a single car in site. Ten percent of the apartments are reportedly sold but at a starting price of $100,000, few people even in the relatively wealthy capital can afford them.
It’s hard to see how the city will ever prosper due to the centrally-planned, rainbow-hued cluster bomb of buildings. The car-dependent culture disconnected from the capital and lack of basic amenities like local shopping and gathering places seem to doom the development to the scrap heap. From Chicago’s Cabrini Green to Soviet Era block housing, few mega-scale housing projects lead to a better life for the occupants. More likely the housing will end up serving an immigrant population feeding the flow of oil to China in the coming years, a bastion of the worst in 21st century economics.