With the rapid urban growth in Africa, the continent is positioning itself as a hub for smart cities.
Africa’s urban population has been growing at a high rate, from about 27 percent in 1950 to 40 percent in 2015 and projected to reach 60 percent by 2050 according to UN-DESA -2014.
As a result, many Africans have moved to urban centres to enhance their productivity and living standards and by 2019, 40.71 % of Sub-Saharan Africa’s total population lived in urban areas and cities.
With the rapid urban growth in Africa, the continent is positioning itself as a hub for smart cities, with ambitious plans like the Konza Technopolis in Kenya, Vision City in Rwanda and Hope City in Ghana.
Kenya is among countries that welcomed the coming into place of the Paris agreement, that paved way to the establishment of sustainable smart cities that will provide the much-needed impetus to address climate change for a safer future. The country has approved six standards that will guide the development of eco and social-friendly cities that will use information and communications technology. Kenya has also attracted investors from all over the world who intend to make an impact on the African economy.
Kenya has few smart cities that are coming up, they include Tatu City, Konza Technopolis, Northlands City, Athi River Smart Green City.
‘Strategic national importance’
“While smart cities have been more successful in developed economies, developing countries can now enjoy the same positive impact,” says Dr. Lal Bhatia, chair of Hilshaw Group, which recently signed an agreement with Athi River Smart Green city to develop a sustainable smart city in Kenya.
Athi River Smart City is one of the projects that the Kenya government has declared of national strategic importance, and Hilshaw is looking into partnering with other developers to actualise the Athi River Smart City.
Dr. Bhatia believes that although there are many challenges to developing sustainable smart cities, he exudes confidence that it is possible to overcome these challenges and unlock the potential in Africa.
Of course, funding is imperative for any socio-economic infrastructure to be developed, deployed, and managed. “However, the significant other side of the coin for a smart city to become a reality and success is a reliable and secure system working diligently to make the smart city plan work,” says Dr. Bhatia.
“A well-thought-out smart city roadmap is a responsible plan by ensuring that there is no depletion of natural resources or mindless displacement of ethnic & agrarian populations and the land is ethically acquired.”
But as different global experiments have shown, megaprojects like the Athi River Smart Green City are possible as a joint collaboration of experts, public and private sectors, like-minded visionaries, and teams that can evolve.