Why African Cities Need to Become Smarter, Faster
Cities currently consume about 78% of the world’s electricity. This means that city planners have a tough balancing act to focus on when it comes to the creation of smart cities. Besides ensuring that living in a city is a comfortable experience, city planners have to make sure there is everything from water and lighting to Wi-Fi and waste removal services.
The provision of power is a key impediment to the creation of smart cities in Africa and, therefore, smart solutions are essential. Imagine a pole that is not only wrapped in solar technology, but that also has Wi-Fi technology as well as GSM technology linked to it. As you move around the city or from city to city, it picks up your SIM card and feeds you relevant information about your route while it simultaneously produces sustainable energy.
Three African cities have already grown beyond a population of 10 million and are formally considered mega cities. Many of our continent’s cities are struggling to keep up with the influx of people due to urbanisation, with over 60% of Africa’s urban population living in informal settlements, where poor living conditions, lack of water and electricity, poor access to sanitation, heavy traffic congestion and poverty are rife.
Smart cities use data-collecting technology, modern infrastructure and the Internet of Things to provide better, safer and more efficient services to their citizens. A number of African cities have already paved the way for better, smarter living:
Konza Techno City, Kenya
This Kenyan urban initiative is located 60 km South East of Nairobi. Konza Techno City is a 5 000 acre piece of land that experts estimate will cost $15,5 billion to construct and will generate around $1 billion for the country each year. The headquarters were reported to be just months from completion in December 2018 and it is marketed as a key driver of Kenya’s national development plan. It is envisioned to become a global technology hub with cutting edge technologies in education, business process outsourcing, information technology enabled services, telecoms and life sciences.
Eko Atlantic, Nigeria
Located on 2 400 acres of land on Victoria Island near Lagos, Eko Atlantic will include advanced fibre optic telecoms, independent reliable electricity and state of the art urban design. Since construction began in 2008, land prices have nearly doubled. It is predicted to create 250 000 new jobs and analysts predict that the growth trajectory seen in Eko Atlantic land values underpins the opportunities which it has in store for savvy investors.
Hope City, Ghana
The technology hub is to be built at Prampram in the Greater Accra Region and will cost $10 billion. One of the planned towers will become Africa’s tallest building and the park is intended to create more than 50 000 jobs in Ghana’s ICT sector.
Cape Town, South Africa
In 2016, Cape Town rolled out public Wi-Fi and in 2015, it launched the Open Data Portal. Over 500 CCTV cameras are located across the city and several smart grid pilots are underway. Last year, the City of Cape Town called for formal public submissions to make it the first truly digital smart city in Africa.
Smart city planning is complex and requires getting a wide range of stakeholders to work together. A good starting point would be taking on tasks such as smart metering, sustainable lighting and city-wide Wi-Fi.