Marketing the new cities to prospective new inhabitants happens long before they’re completed. Developers often pull out all stops from promising early bird discounts to using slick marketing videos to showcase the cities. It’s a tactic that often drives early adoption and then a surge in value of the property. For instance, land prices in Lagos’ Eko Atlantic have nearly doubled since construction began in 2008.

An administrative building at SenegalÕs new Diamniadio industrial park in Senegal November 15, 2016.
Senegal’s $2 billion Diomniadio city is due to be completed by 2035.
Image: REUTERS/Nellie Peyton

But as new city construction ramp up, it’s unlikely they will make a big enough dent in the housing shortage as they ignore the socioeconomic realities of locals. Once they are completed, much of the luxurious apartment homes will likely remain out of reach for a majority of citizens in need of housing. Indeed, Senegal’s $2 billion Diamniadio Lake City is already facing strong criticism as being “planned without inhabitants in mind” amid fears that its costs could worsen Senegal’s debt problems. Meanwhile, in Vision City, Kigali, one of the country’s string of proposed “smart cities,” a home unit costs around $160,000 even though up to 80% of the city’s population live in slums.

There’s also the question of the effects new city projects will have on the wider population, especially when land reclamation from the sea is involved. A prime example is Nigeria’s Eko Atlantic project, a 6-mile city built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. While the new city will have a sea wall wrapped around it to protect it from the ocean’s storms, experts say it will leave other parts of Lagos even more susceptible to flood.

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