African cities are growing fast. A highly controversial solution is the construction of so-called “new cities”. Based on a study of the new Urban Hub of Diamniadio (UHD) in Senegal, this paper unpacks and challenges the idea of new cities as a horizontal, one-size-fits-all solution. The paper argues that the UHD represents an inherently political policy tool, used to reassert central state power over strategic territories. As a political flagship project of President Macky Sall, the UHD is a top-down approach that excludes decentralised bodies and citizens from urban policy making.