This striking quote is from a recent profile of the city in CapX. Over at The Pudding, that observation sparked some interesting work visualizing the number of flights leaving from cities around the world each day.
Matt Daniels notes that Kinshasa, with its 13 million residents, has about 13 outbound flights each day. That’s just slightly more than Barrow, Alaska, which has 10 daily flights for its population of 5000 people. Conversely, over 900 flights depart from Paris each day (pop. 13 million as well).
As shown in the graph below, Lagos also has substantially fewer flights than one might expect given its size. In general, you’re better off predicting the number of flights from a city by looking at its economy, rather than its overall population. New York seems to be an outlier here because it’s a primary transit point between two wealthy regions (Europe and North America).
I recently came across a fascinating post from The Pudding visualizing the populations of cities around the world as mountains. (H/t to Naunihal Singh, who shares lots of other similarly interesting things as well.) Let’s check out how Kinshasa’s 13 million people look compared to other places with similar populations.
What really stands out to me about Kin is its extreme concentration. Population density drops off dramatically as soon as one leaves the city. I recall being struck by this on a trip to Matadi a few years ago, where hours went by without passing any settlement larger than 10 or so houses.
Conversely, London’s population is much more evenly distributed both within the city itself and across the surrounding area.
Bengaluru points to yet another model for distributing the population. The city itself is densely populated, and surrounded by a lot of fairly dense towns, but relatively few people in between the towns themselves. This presumably reflects the larger role that agriculture plays in the Indian economy compared to the British. London’s suburbs stretch on without being interrupted by fields quite so often.
I just wrote a piece for African Arguments about Nairobi’s recent downtown matatu ban. Click on over to read the whole thing!
At the start of this month, Nairobi County governor Mike Sonko banned the entry of matatus into the city centre. The more than 20,000 minibuses which used to enter each day were forced to stop outside CBD and compete for just 500 parking spots. Passengers were dropped off often several kilometres from their final destinations. From there, they had few options but to walk. Cabs are too expensive for most, while cheaper motorcycle taxis were barred from the centre several months ago.
Understandably, there was a massive public outcry, to the extent that the ban was lifted just two days later. However, it’s still important to ask what informed the short-lived policy. While other major cities like Oslo and Madrid have recently banned private cars downtown in an effort to increase the use of buses and public transport, why is Nairobi driving in the opposite direction?
Marcello Schermer recently shared this map of Africa’s wealthiest cities on Twitter. There are notable clusters along the Mediterranean and west African coasts, in the Rift Valley, and in South Africa.
Here’s the latest edition of my Africa Update newsletter. We’ve got Mali’s 35-year old foreign minister, the dodgeball association of South Sudan, accountability for Mozambican mayors over gay rights, the future of nuclear power on the continent, and more.
Southern Africa: At some South African universities, nearly 80% of black students report that they sometimes don’t have enough to eat. A South African court has ruled that marriages between Muslim couples in the country must be legally registered and not simply recorded with religious authorities, giving women legal protection in the event of divorce. Zimbabwe’s harsh laws criminalizing the transmission of HIV are discouraging people from coming for testing and treatment.
Here’s the latest cross-posting from my Africa Update newsletter! We’ve got the paradox of powdered milk in cattle-loving Somalia, the national airline of Chad, challenges of urban planning in Kenya, free African documentaries online, and more.
Arts and culture: A Beninese artist planted a copy of a 19th century royal throne at an archaeological dig to protest the fact that the original throne is held at a museum in France. A dozen authors from the Middle East and Africa who were invited to the Edinburgh International Book Festival had their visas denied for unclear reasons. AfriDocs has a number of African documentaries available to watch online for free. Check out the online resources for teaching African decolonization at the National History Center.