Africa is a continent of natural wonders and rich cultures, blessed with a blended spectrum of people from different ethnic groups showcasing the best they got in making Africa an industrialized continent.
Africa has more than 1 billion people, ranked as the second populated region in the world and with a very significant population growth in the world.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs report (2017), on Population facts: Youth Population trends and Sustainable Development showed that, Urban population in Africa account 39.2 percent, this shows that the continent is expanding in urban development, with more than 220 million youth population and expected to reach 42 percent by 2030, Africa can reach its pinnacles under the right circumstances by employing youth at the forefront of creativity and innovation. However, the youth of Africa have dreams for their motherland and visions that reflect development cutting across all major aspects of human life advancement. As a youth of Africa, I envision on taking lead in developing smart cities and improving urban development.
Africa Planners Association report (2013) on The State of Planning in Africa, found that the patterns of Africa urban development can be traced throughout history by reviewing the pre-colonial, colonial, post-colonial and modern periods. In the pre-colonial era migration and land dominance led to establishment of large settlements, during this time land was vested within traditional leaders, families, and communities whereby customary laws controlled and managed all issues regarding the land management. By the time we were colonized, the westerners had their own form of high-level urbanization whereby they initiated the establishment of new settlements along the Africa coastline in the 16th century onward.
By 19 century, Africa was already scrambled by colonialists whereby British, German, Belgium, France and Portuguese planning systems were integrated across their colonial territories. After the colonial era, Western, Eastern and Southern Africa independent states began working their way to elevate urban development across the continent taking off from where the colonial master’s planners left. However Africa needs to reshuffle the cards and employ new strategies to extinguish the chronic urban settlements challenges, I believe modern smart cities and urban development to be the viable solution.
Before the 19th century, the world had less than 1 billion people. Currently 7 billion people are accounted all over the globe, with Africa ranked second as the most populated region and its economy growing at a fast pace (United Nations World Population Prospects, 2017 revision).
Therefore smart cities are the viable solutions towards harmonizing the growing population with living conditions across Africa. The pool of knowledge, reflect smart cities to be urban areas that use different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently. This concept has been raised to utilize effectively Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for the last 20 years to facilitate smooth urban life in this digital age, hence this concept fits perfectly in Africa I hope to see in the coming decades.
Studies show Smart cities put to use data from citizen devices plus assets then analyzed and processed to ensure effective monitoring of traffic, power systems, water supply, network systems, transportation systems, waste and et cetera.
With the use of Internet of Things, smart cities reduce operation costs and resource consumption by employing digital solutions towards cities daily operations. This concept emerged as climate change, economic restriction, an ageing population, urban population growth and pressure on public funds issues came out as major forces limiting smooth urbanization. Some of the cities to visualize this concept were: New York, Madrid, Helsinki, Osaka, Dubai, Barcelona and Amsterdam to mention a few.
However Africa has not been lagging behind, Kenya and South Africa are one of the cities that managed to bring this concept to reality. Available studies shows that Nairobi a capital city of Kenya was noted to be one of the most advanced and intelligent cities in Africa. South Africa’s Cape Town has been marked as the best place to do business in the continent. Africa has twenty largest cities Dar es salaam being one of them which grows at a very fast pace, however most of them are not smart cities, thus Africa as a whole region ought to crackdown all hindrances and bring together technologies and strategies to bring smart cities to fruition.
I hope Africa will develop robust interconnected harmonious communities that employ sustainable mechanisms in all aspects of life. Urban development plans should complement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) 11- Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, this can be visualized by bringing in technology into every sphere of life, improvement and youth being the core part of it.
African cities generate 50-70 percent GDP (Sustainable Urban Development report,2015), these numbers will rise, if the core system of the smart city is transformed to fit our real needs by transforming education, health, transportation systems and public administration to be integrated by modern technologies to save time, money, energy and to make life fun. Urbanization, industrialization, economic growth issues should be unified to ensure that all operation pertaining each sphere work closely to maximize social equity, economic viability and environmental sustainability.
Land is a critical and productive resource in Africa, I anticipate that land disputes issues to be extinguished in the next decade, so that we can plan our settlements effectively, cities consume 2/3 of the world resources and 54 percent of the people live in urban areas (Sustainable Urban Development report,2015), I believe if Africa works on strengthening city’s finances, governance system, improving health ,life standards and land use planning for urban transformation, smart cities and urban development will be visualized.
Geographer and Environmentalist writes from Tanzania.
He can be reached via Cell: +255763635597.