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Smart city solutions a must for Africa’s growth

By Benard Ayieko | August 4th 2020

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

Smart cities integrate Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to boost quality and performance of services for urban dwellers, particularly in energy, transportation and utilities.

The concept of smart cities gathered momentum across the globe in 2009, with countries like China, South Korea and the United Arabs Emirates leading the pack.

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

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, 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 Hope City – a Sh1 trillion high-tech hub that houses 25,000 residents besides creating jobs for 50,000 people.

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

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

In South Africa, the Water Fall City poised to be the new Central Business District of Gauteng. It 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 support integration of ICT in urban living.

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

So why smart cities in Africa? The concept of smart cities is meant to re-shape urbanisation and development goals, and it’s seen as a solution to rapid urbanisation.

Sustainable growth

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” –
an online e-government services portal - are key smart cities’ urbanisation-led innovations impacting positively the lives of the people.

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

- The writer is an economist and comments on trade and investment issues 

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