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While the link roads are being built for SA’s new Chinese-funded US$6.2bn city east of Jo’burg, a rash of brand spanking new cities are changing skylines across Africa. And most of them are private ventures, offering tens of thousands of urban Africans the opportunity to live in comfort "off the grid", insulated from the chaos that characterises so many of the continent’s cities. By far the most ambitious project — and the largest real estate development on the continent, according to Deloitte — is Centenary City, an $18.6bn smart eco-city for 137,000 residents and 500,000 daily commuters that is being built from scratch outside the Nigerian capital Abuja, a few minutes’ drive from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. Developed by Abu Dhabi-based Eagle Hills in a public-private partnership with the Federal Capital Territory, Centenary City will form a free-trade zone and have its own liberal banking and tax regulations. Construction has begun on the first phase, 25ha of bespoke...

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