Several countries racing to have Africa’s tallest building

The Leonardo in Johannesburg, South Africa. Courtesy: Bl1zz4rd-editor/Wikipedia
The Leonardo in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Courtesy: Bl1zz4rd-editor/Wikipedia

Currently, the distinction of being Africa’s tallest building belongs to The Leonardo, in Johannesburg’s upmarket Sandton neighborhood. The skyscraper stands 234m high but projects underway in several other countries will all rise above the Leonardo.

Construction of the 250m-high Mohammed VI Tower in the Moroccan capital of Rabat started a year ago. Once completed, the building “will have 55 floors hosting a luxury hotel, prestigious offices and luxury apartments as well as an observatory at the top of the tower”, according to Leila Haddaoui, the deputy MD of O Tower, a subsidiary of the privately-owned FinanceCom SA Group that’s commissioned and financed the project.

Artist’s rendering of Mohammed VI Tower in Rabat, Morocco
Courtesy: DailyMorocco

The building is on track to be completed by May 2022, added Bjorn Walgraeve, project director from Belgium’s Besix Group, which was awarded the construction contract in October 2018. “There are currently 300 people on site, but it will increase to 2,000 at peak,” he said.

Further south, another contender for Africa’s highest is the F Tower, set to be built in Cote D’Ivorie’s capital of Abidjan. Construction is yet to get underway, but PFO Africa, a firm owned by Lebanese-Ivorian architect Pierre Fakhoury, has already tipped it as the tallest on the continent, peaking at 283 meters when built.

Rendering of proposed F Tower in Cote D’Ivoire

F tower is set to be “an architectural feat, with a symmetrical geometry, like an African mask”, PFO says on its website.

The Pinnacle in Nairobi’s Upperhill neighborhood is set to rise 300m into the skyline. The building shall host 150 posh apartments and include a helipad. It will also house 42 floors of high-end residential apartments, 20 Grade- A offices and 5 floors of shopping space among other luxury facilities.

A depiction of the Pinnacle Towers which are under construction in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo : HAAS/SKYSCRAPER CENTRE

The Pinnacle is set to be completed in 2023.

Last but not least, set to be Africa’s tallest skyscraper at 385m in height, the Iconic Tower in Egypt’s new administrative capital is going up at a rate of one floor every six days or fewer.  It stands at 100m now, with 16 of the planned 80 floors complete.

Rendering of the Iconic Tower. The building is set to be completed by 2022.
Courtesy: Construction Online

The China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) is handling that project and expects to deliver the facility in 2022.

Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai

Africa has been late to the tall-building party, with Asian and Middle East countries having nine of the 10 highest skyscrapers — all built in the last decade. Even when or if the F tower is constructed, it will still be about a third of the height of the world leader — the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, completed more than 130 years ago in 1889, is 324m tall at its tip.

“After 9/11, everybody briefly thought we’d seen the end of skyscrapers and it’s actually just the opposite,” Eitan Karol, CEO of Louis Karol Architects, said by phone from Cape Town. “People naturally like tall buildings because it’s an important symbol and it gives the city something,” he said.

“The race to get the tallest building in your city is symbolic,” said Philippa Tumubwainee, head of the department of architecture and planning at the University of Cape Town.

“Tall buildings need relatively complex engineering, innovative thinking, some kind of forward-thinking structural system because you’ve got to get people and material up,” she said. “You have to have the skills, you have to have the labor, you have to have the money. It’s an expensive exercise.