Smart Cities Are Key If Africa Wants To Tackle An Impending Population Explosion.
“Governments should adopt and embrace innovation and technology to bring about lasting development solutions.” -Laurent Lamothe-
By 2050, it is estimated that 1.3 billion people will be added to Africa’s population. Unless infrastructure development happens at an unprecedented pace, there will be extreme shortages. The development of smart cities, and the supporting technology and innovation that comes with the smart city concept, allows governments in Africa the opportunity to implement real solutions, that can tackle the challenges associated with rapid population growth.
Admittedly smart cities in Africa are still in its infancy, but the continent has an advantage. The ability to build new services and facilities from the ground up, essentially leapfrogging cumbersome outdated infrastructure that more developed countries have to contend with.
In South Africa, the city of Cape Town has partnered with network providers to acquire data from sensors placed around the city. This data helps the city run more effectively in several ways ranging from traffic monitoring to waste management, crime detection and fire response.
Some countries are taking another route toward smart cities by developing satellite cities — new urban areas built in areas near pre-existing cities. In 2017, the government in Benin launched the Sèmè-City program, which aims to create a smart city dedicated to innovation and knowledge, and is predicted to generate 190,000 direct and indirect jobs, a third of which are self-employed.
Konza Technology City (KTC) or “Silicon Savannah” is a flagship project of the Kenyan government. Covering a surface area of 2000 hectares, it aims to build, at a cost of $400 million, a city entirely dedicated to technology. Similarly, the Cité de l’Innovation de Kigali in Rwanda, financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), is valued at more than $ 2 billion.
Egypt is another good example. The development of a smart city in the desert is set to replace Cairo as the country’s capital. Although the project has attracted criticism, one needs to consider the challenges the Egyptian government face. Cairo is quite simply bursting at the seams. The lure of jobs has caused an influx of people to the capital city. Currently, Cairo is twice the size of New York and is home to about one-fifth of Egypt’s 97 million people. The effect of this rapid expansion has caused chronic traffic congestion, overcrowding and infrastructure that is unable to absorb more people.
The still-unnamed City is considered to be the most ambitious smart city project on the continent. With an overall cost estimated at $45 billion, designed to be the country’s new administrative hub and home to more than 6.5 million residents. The new capital will cover 700 square kilometres, making it about the size of Singapore.
The solutions smart cities offer is undeniable, there are hurdles to overcome. One being funding, the development of smart cities is not cheap.
In Egypt, although the development of the City is progressing, Reuters reported last year that the project is struggling to raise funds and needs to overcome other challenges after investors pulled out. “We need very extensive financing,” it quoted Ahmed Zaki Abdeen a retired general who heads the company building the new city. “And the state doesn’t have money to give me.” As a result, around 20% of investment to date has come from overseas.
This is where Innovative Finance plays a critical role because it gives governments the freedom, flexibility and the financial sovereignty to implement its national priorities. Daily billions of digital transactions are taking place in any given country. Applying a painless micro levy to these transactions will generate billions of new revenue streams. Innovative Finance is a solution that provides governments with a tool to create new sources of revenue that does not increase a countries debt level or require citizens to pay more tax.
As a former Prime Minister, I believe that there is an urgent need for countries to “adopt and embrace innovation and technology to bring about lasting development solutions.”