China and the World

China’s newest city is in Africa

Controversy dogs a Chinese-built city in Angola

A “ghost town” is the Daily Mail’s verdict on Nova Cidade de Kilamba. The UK newspaper has been showing video footage on its website of one of its journalists driving around this deserted Angolan city of 750 eight-storey blocks of apartments.

Regular readers of WiC may recall Kilamba (see issue 139) which was built by China’s CITIC Construction at a cost of $3.5 billion, and is designed to house 500,000 people.

Officially, the project has been getting plaudits. Angola’s deputy construction minister Manuel Clemente Junior told the BBC that Kilamba is “with absolute certainty, an excellent project” and a crucial part of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos 2008 election pledge to build one million homes in four years.

It is being paid for by Angolan oil shipments to China.

So what’s the problem? Price. The government is trying to sell the apartments for between $120,000 and $200,000. Apparently, only 220 have so far been sold.

A real estate agent told the BBC that these prices were “correct for the quality of the apartments and for all the conditions that the city can offer”. But he also admitted that there is a major difficulty: buyers are finding it tough to get a mortgage.

Could Bank of China save the day by providing financing options? That is one possibility, but it might still not fill Kilamba. Another obstacle, say local economists, is that Angola has huge population of very poor and a tiny group of very rich, but not much of a middle class. And it is middle-class buyers that Kilamba is aimed at.

“If the houses go unsold, then the Angolan government will be left with stock on their hands and a potentially wasted investment,” the BBC surmises.


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