From an inward point of view, Africa’s cities seem to have the most challenges. From endless traffic jams in Nairobi, to slow internet network in Addis Ababa. While the continent has a few towns worth bragging about, most metropolises in Africa cannot compare to other cities in the West. African urbanization has a lot to catch up from systems in Europe and America. That is why Africa is in the best position to drive smart cities than any other region on Earth.
What are smart cities?
Smart cities are cities which leverage natural resources, modern ICT infrastructure, human capital, and social capital to offer high-quality life. These cities consist of hard infrastructures like roads, as well as soft infrastructures such as good governance and leadership. Additionally, these cities thrive on interconnected transport, power, water, and economic systems. These and other components form an ecosystem which intertwines to promote seamless services.
Besides, the ecosystem integrates public and private sector as well as community and social enterprises forming multidisciplinary relationships that drive a city. Residents in smart cities such as innovators, citizens, and employers all aspire certain quality of life. Moreso, the different stakeholders translate their aspirations into tangible strategies awaiting implementation.
A report by Deloitte suggests that Africa’s unique combination of problems serve the centre stage for smart cities. Here’s why Africa is the place to set up smart cities.
The switch cost to smart cities will be low.
Metropolises in the continents do not have a 20th-century infrastructure. As a matter of fact, most cities in the continent did not establish elaborate transport and communication infrastructure in the distant past. Therefore, adopting efficient facilities such as 5G/LTE and data-driven transport networks will not have high switch costs. At the same time, investing in network infrastructures such as data centres and cloud systems would allow local businesses a global reach. Such would position African cities in global competition without draining their pockets.
A harbour of youthful consumers.
Most African countries consist of a youthful population. Countries such as Kenya have an average age of 19 years. Such people show great promise for a future consumer market as compared to European countries. Coupled with a growing middle class, Africa’s young population will serve decades of business. Moreover, young consumers in the continent thirst for trendy choices of food, fashion, entertainment and interconnectivity. What better place could we set up smart cities for future businesses?
Mobile communication networks serve a majority of the population in Africa. The continent’s 72% mobile penetration is enough to drive interconnected systems. For instance, Konza City, Kenya’s upcoming smart city can take advantage of high mobile penetration to provide real-time traffic alerts. At the same time, mobile devices could enhance efficient transport systems through ride-hailing services as well as real-time monitoring of commute in Africa’s smart cities.
An inherent entrepreneurial culture necessary for innovations.
Smart cities can fuel sustainable economic development by capitalizing on the continent’s established entrepreneurial belief to groom future innovations. Africa’s “Can Do” attitude provides the necessary social capital to drive solutions for both economic development and high-quality life in cities.
A rapidly urbanizing population to smart cities.
The growing population in cities brings both the necessity and the mental capital necessary for innovation. The key to Africa’s global competitiveness lies in its willingness to provide an enabling environment to power innovation. Such includes setting up creative spaces as well as passing favourable laws. The conditions, powered by a growing population and a desire for more will result in innovations for the continents’ problems.
Governments that leverage ICT to drive development.
Countries with low internet connectivity and poor mobile penetration also succumb poor education, wanting levels of healthcare, and low average income. Inversely, countries with better mobile and internet connectivity show improved socio-economic development as the case of Kenya and South Africa. A Deloitte research reveals that a 10% increase in mobile penetration grows a middle/low-income country’s GDP by 1.2%.
The Kenyan government already integrates ICT in key development projects such as vision 2030. The presence of governments which believe that tomorrow’s development depends on improving ICT infrastructure makes Africa a suitable place to establish cities of tomorrow.
Africa can put its cities in the global competitive space. Innovations Kenya’s M-Pesa and Egypt’s SWVL show how much African cities can do for the world if only they optimized human capital with ICT infrastructure to create sustainable development.