CMI Letter #13, December 2011

Optimizing Urban Planning in the Mediterranean with MENApolis

To meet its mission of bringing together knowledge and practices towards greater integration in the Mediterranean, CMI offers a new analysis tool dedicated to strategic urban planning. Called MENApolis, it is used in five countries: Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

Urban development is rapidly evolving in Southern Mediterranean countries. To anticipate needs in terms of infrastructure, housing and to prevent increasing territorial imbalances, new tools have to be available to decision-makers and developers. This is exactly what the MENApolis project proposes to do, initiated by an agreement signed between the e-Geopolis Association and CMI as part of its "Strategic Urban Development" program.

Funded by the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations Group and sponsored by the MENA Region of the World Bank, this program serves different approaches: to characterize and measure urbanization over the period 1950-2010 in 5 countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia) in the MENA region and especially forecast trends until 2030.


"MENApolis is a particular application of the e-Geopolis program", explains Geographer François Moriconi-Ebrard, Research Director at the CNRS and President of the e-Geopolis Association. "The concept of city varies from country to country. This is an obstacle to understanding and working on the phenomena of urbanization. We have therefore developed a database of agglomerations of more than 10,000 people from a common definition, used by INSEE, of urban space with continuity characterized by less than 200 meters between two buildings", says the President of e-Geopolis.

The database includes elements taken from different censuses carried out in MENA countries.  It provides an overview of the period 1950 to 2010. Taking into account the birth and mortality rates and the aging population, projections for 2020 and 2030 can be done. But beyond simple demographics, information on urban sprawl and its evolution are the key assets of MENApolis. These elements can be reached by using tools like Google Earth and Google Map.

A tool to foster decision-making

"MENApolis could become a complementary tool to those we already have, especially with the ability to see the evolution of urban sprawl on interactive maps. This allows us to optimize decision-making", says Hynd Bouhia, Advisor to the CEO of the Caisse de Dépôt and Management-Development, in Morocco.


Morocco is in fact the first of the five MENA region countries where MENApolis is scattered. A seminar organized on November 3-4, 2011, at the International University of Rabat presented this new tool to representatives from the relevant ministries, academics, local authorities, urban planners and private developers.

According to the MENApolis database, the urbanization rate in Morocco is 55% of the population and the changing of the urban area is characterized by a marked growth of large cities like Casablanca/Rabat. In 2010, nearly one third of the urban population was concentrated there. "Morocco has embarked on the path of sustainable development taking into account economic, social and environmental imperatives. To fight against poor housing and remove the slums, new cities are being created. How can we ensure connections between these new cities and existing settlements? What infrastructure and housing will be necessary? What kinds of economic activities do we develop there? These are the challenges we face. MENApolis can help us provide the most appropriate answers, knowing that this is an evolving tool that we must embrace", says Hynd Bouhia. To learn more about this, training will be organized in the coming weeks in Morocco.

Tunisia will be the next country where MENApolis will be presented. A presentation and training seminar is planned for mid 2012.  After that, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan will be the other countries involved with MENApolis, three countries for which in 2010, according to the database, more than three-quarters of the population were living in towns of 10,000 inhabitants of more.

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