Senegal’s capital of Dakar is massively overcrowded with 1/4 of the country’s total population. To try and alleviate this congestion, Senegal’s government has proposed developing a francophone West African “silicon valley” 45 minutes outside the city in Diamniadio.

With plans for 15,000 homes, a university, tech centers, research, and medical facilities, officials say they hope this new urban pole will attract people from the inner city and establish Diamniadio as a model for new urban centers.

But despite all of the plans for innovative, open living spaces and new opportunities for commercial businesses and entrepreneurs, many residents currently living in Dakar’s most populated areas just don’t earn enough money to relocate.

More than 38% of Dakar’s total population live in low-income neighborhoods. With an average monthly salary of 82,000CFA ($132 USD) and the new Diaminadio residences expected to cost between 2,900CFA (~$5) and 10,000CFA (~$16) per square meter, a person could expect to pay nearly three times their monthly earnings for even the smallest available spaces.

Diamniado’s urban planners acknowledge many residents will be unable to afford the new housing units but said plans for the new city represent the type of progress Senegal needs.

“Diamniado is for everyone… in a quality environment with a socially acceptable and economically accessible price. We will not build ghettos there, however. That’s out of the question. It’s a new city. People need to evolve, we need to get out from where we are. Senegalese need to change their way of thinking…” – urban planner and project communications officer, Saliou Sow

Some residents in Dakar, like Pape Gueye, said they are happy the government is doing something to make Senegal more attractive to businesses and relieve some of the city’s congestion while providing new job opportunities as well, “I helped work on the autoroute to Diamniado. It feels good they’re finally creating jobs, maybe the future generation can live there but right now, we can work.”

Diamniadio City Plan

Diamniadio City Plan (credit: The Delegation for the Promotion of Urbanism of Diamniadio and Lac Rose)

After several previous attempts at developments in other locations around Dakar, President Macky Sall proposed building in Diamniadio, which at the time, held a population of only 33,000 residents and offered designers an opportunity to create a planned city that could meet the country’s evolving needs for more urbanization.

The Diamniadio mission report states, “Senegal has been confronted for decades with the persistence of an enlarged population and little space, which compromises Dakar’s development efforts for a harmonious and balanced urban network. To respond to the situation we feel it urgent to proceed to decongest Dakar by creating new urban cities.”

Residences under construction at Diamniadio

Residences under construction at Diamniadio

President Sall’s government has already spent $20 million on the project and was recently offered $100 million from the African Development Bank to begin construction. While the Senegalese government is ultimately responsible for all construction of the residential and commercial spaces in Diamniadio, private firms will also be allowed to buy individual plots to construct additional homes or businesses in the designated city center area.