Circular economy

Zenata, one of the first eco-cities in Africa

Aziza El Effas L'Economiste | Updated on January 08, 2018

Covering 1,830 hectares in area, this eco-development was designed with an ambitious mindset: every territorial constraint encountered should be turned into an opportunity. The project aims to meet fundamental environmental, social and economic objectives in a sustainable and integrated way.

The year 2018 will be that of concrete realizations for the eco-city of Zenata in Casablanca, Morocco’s economic capital. The project is starting to break ground after ten years in gestation. To date, 3 billion DH (around 280 million euros) have already been injected into its infrastructure (roads, traffic circles, an interchange…). Following the release of public land for the development of Zenata, major infrastructure works are underway in order to open up access to the site. A process which will soon be completed. Next step: handing over the first residential neighborhood to property developers at the end of 2017. “In this type of urban development, what’s important is not the buildings themselves, but the work that’s done on the infrastructure”, remarked Abdellatif Zaghnoun, Managing Director of CDG Group which is heading the project, via its subsidiary Société d’Aménagement de zenata (SAZ).

Infographic - The biggest part of the financing of Phase 1 (3 billion DH) was devoted to land acquisition, land development and infrastructure works. Click here to read PDF

Zenata is considered to be one of the first eco-cities in Africa. It’s also the result of one of the last big strategic plans capable of redressing some of the socio-economic imbalance that prevails between East and West in the Grand Casablanca region.

While the process of expropriation and the rehousing of local inhabitants has taken years (since 2006, the year when the site was declared to be of public utility), the building works finally seem to be making steady progress.

Avoiding the "dormitory town" scenario

The long process of clearing the ground for construction has been used as an opportunity for honing the design of Zenata in the meantime. The project has required meticulous planning, to ensure that the site becomes a thriving development and not a “dormitory town”. All the more important given that the rate of failure of new towns stands at 75% worldwide.

The task is not the easiest. The aim is to create an eco-city that’s intelligent in how it addresses all the key areas: mobility, healthcare access, social equity, use of public spaces, security, infrastructure and waste management.

Covering 1,830 hectares in area, Zenata benefits from an exceptional location, between Rabat and Casablanca, the administrative and economic capitals of Morocco. Situated at the crossroads of Morocco’s main infrastructure – in terms of roads, railroads, freight and air transport – the site has excellent connectivity guaranteed, and it also boasts double exposure; both onto the coastline and inwards across the land. The site stretches out over 5.3 km along the Atlantic coast and 3.5 km of the sea that flanks the Casablanca-Rabat expressway.

Socially and spatially diverse

The eco-city of Zenata has been designed in respect of the 3 fundamental pillars of sustainable development: the environmental, social and economic. Aiming for both social and spatial diversity, the project has been planned with the intention of creating a redefined urban center capable of meeting the requirements of the emerging middle class, notably through the development of services with high added value.

The development will incorporate three service activities, organized in sections. The first is that of education. The health section will include a private healthcare unit, with a strong offering of specialized health plans. The third section – dedicated to business, aims to make Zenata an attractive commercial and family leisure destination. The first phase of this project was made accessible to the public in March 2016, including the opening of an Ikea store.

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Innovative urban planning

■ Air and water management

The direction of the winds in the area has been studied, with the aim of ensuring the natural ventilation of the city. This will enable the temperature to be reduced by 2-3 degrees in summer, and it will help regulate humidity in winter. Rainwater will be harvested and channeled into retention basins, so that it can be used for the irrigation of green spaces.

■ Sustainable mobility

Two types of sustainable transport are envisaged: collective and low-carbon. One main station will offer access to different modes of transport (express subway trains, trams, buses). 12 km cycle paths will also be developed (intended for use by both cyclists and pedestrians), ensuring that all the main local services are accessible in 10 minutes by bike.

■ A green, open city

Zenata will be the first Moroccan city to surpass the ratio of green space per inhabitant recommended by the WHO (10 m2/inhabitant). The eco-city will actually host 470 hectares of green spaces (one third of its total surface area), which means that it could offer a ratio of over 15 m2/inhabitant. A green corridor (or metropolitan axis) will form a sort of “spine” for the city, around which the first development zone will be located (40 hectares). Cultural, sports and leisure facilities will be set out around this axis, as well as a park (150 hectares) which will open out onto the coastline, complete with a 5km promenade (hotels, restaurants…).

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Published on October 27, 2017
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