Smart cities are a must for Africa growth

Smart cities use data and technology to create efficiencies, improve sustainability, enhance quality of life and promote economic growth. FILE PHOTO | NMG

What you need to know:

  • The concept of smart cities is meant to re-shape urbanization and development goals and is seen as a solution to rapid urbanization.
  • It gathered momentum globally in 2009 with countries like China, South Korea and UAE leading the pack.
  • The building of smart cities in Africa creates a transformational aura that will reduce congestion and create spaces dedicated to recreational uses thus improving citizen’s quality of life.

Smart cities use data and technology to create efficiencies, improve sustainability, enhance quality of life and promote economic growth and development.

They integrate information and communication technologies (ICT) to boost the quality and performance of services for urban dwellers, particularly in energy, transportation and utilities.

The concept gathered momentum globally in 2009 with countries like China, South Korea and UAE leading the pack.

India, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Egypt, France, Malta and Italy have joined the smart city ecosystem in implementing the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through creation of liveable and sustainable cities.

AFRICA

Africa has joined the fray with Nairobi, Cairo, Pretoria, Kinshasa, Accra, Kigali and Lagos embracing a range of smart applications in traffic management, parking, cashless payments, technological innovations and healthcare management, among others.

The concept of smart cities is not only a common feature but also a crucial pillar in most African countries’ Development Plans.

In Nigeria, the Eko Atlantic City in Lagos, built on land reclaimed from the sea and christened the “future Hong Kong” of Africa, offers smart solutions to citizens while presenting environmental-friendly solutions and opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs.

In Ghana, the Appolonia King City is a smart city that accommodates over 160,000 residents on land developed for housing, retail and commercial centres, schools, health centres and other social amenities.

Ghana also boasts of Hope City – a Sh1 trillion high-tech hub for housing 25,000 residents besides creating jobs for 50,000 people. 

In Rwanda, the Vision City has been constructed to transform the country into a “Center of Urban Excellence in Africa”, in line with Rwanda’s Vision 2020 economic blueprint.

It envisages a Singapore-like commercial and shopping centre that boasts glass-box skyscrapers, modern hotels, green-themed parks and entertainment facilities.

In South Africa, the WaterFall City poised to be the new Central Business District of Gauteng, embraces urban living with offices, residential, retail, logistics hub, schools, hotels, hospital, parks, restaurants, entertainment, among others.

Closer home is our Konza technopolis dubbed “Africa’s Silicon Savannah”.

This is the government’s flagship project under the economic blueprint Vision 2030 designed to foster the growth of the technology industry and to support integration of urban information and communication technology.

There is also Tatu City, a live-work-play private development neighbouring the capital being built on 1,035 hectares of land.

JUSTIFICATION

So why smart cities in Africa?

The concept of smart cities is meant to re-shape urbanization and development goals and is seen as a solution to rapid urbanization.

The integration of Internet of Things (IoTs) is meant to improve the quality of life, efficiency of urban operations and services to foster competitiveness in the African economy.

It has also created employment opportunities, enhanced service delivery to its people and promotes sustainable growth and development.

For instance, the e-parking solution in Nairobi and the Rwandan “irembo” – online e-government services portal are key smart cities’ urbanization-led innovations impacting positively on the lives of the people.

There is also increased government-citizen engagement leading to effective data-driven policy formulation and decision making for safer communities through digital surveillance, efficient transport and communication system, use of environmental friendly solutions, increased digital equity, efficient public utilities, improved infrastructure, highly effective workforce and offers new economic development opportunities.

The building of smart cities in Africa creates a transformational aura that will reduce congestion and create spaces dedicated to recreational uses thus improving citizen’s quality of life.

As Rwandan President Kagame says, “to get the cities we want, we must always keep the people we serve at the center of our efforts”.

The writer is an economist and a commentator on trade and investment.

Twitter: @BenShawAyieko, Email: [email protected]