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Home » Christian Benimana: The Next Generation of African Architects and Designers (Transcript)

Christian Benimana: The Next Generation of African Architects and Designers (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Christian Benimana’s Talk: The Next Generation of African Architects and Designers at TED conference. 


The longest journey that I have ever taken. That was in 2002. I was only 19 years old. It was the first time I had ever been on an airplane and the first time that I had left my country, Rwanda. I had to move thousands of kilometers away to follow a dream. A dream I have had ever since I was a child. And that dream was to become an architect.

That was impossible at the time in my country. There were no schools of architecture. So when I got a scholarship to study in China, I left my life and my family behind and I moved to Shanghai. It was an amazing time. This country was going through a major building boom.

Shanghai, my new home, was quickly turning into a skyscraper city. China was changing. World-class projects were built to convey a new image of development. Modern, striking engineering marvels were going up literally everywhere. But behind these facades, exploitation of huge numbers of migrant workers, massive displacement of thousands of people made these projects possible. And this fast-paced development also contributed significantly to the pollution that is haunting China today.

Fast-forward to 2010, when I went back home to Rwanda. There, I found development patterns similar to what I saw in China. The country was and still is experiencing its own population and economic growth. The pressure to build cities, infrastructure and buildings is at its peak, and as a result, there is a massive building boom as well.

This is the reality across the entire continent of Africa, and here’s why. By 2050, Africa’s population will double, reaching 25 billion people. At this point, the African population will be slightly less than the current population of China and India combined. The infrastructure and buildings needed to accommodate this many people is unprecedented in the history of humankind.

We have estimated that by 2050, we have to build 700,000,000 more housing units, more than 300,000 schools and nearly 100,000 health centers. Let me put that into perspective for you. Every day for the next 35 years, we have to build seven health centers, 25 schools and nearly 60,000 housing units each day, every day.

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