Cities are home to a majority of people on the planet with even greater urbanization predicted to be the trend. Rapid urbanization is swelling city populations and straining infrastructure, testing service delivery and presenting new safety challenges. A smart city uses digital technologies or information and communication technologies to enhance quality and performance of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens. In addition, technology is now on the frontline of urban safety, alongside people.

The rise of new Internet technologies promoting cloud-based services, the Internet of Things (IoT), use of mobile devices, smart phones, smart meters, networks of sensors and RFID technology, and more accurate communication based on the semantic web, open new ways to collective action and collaborative problem solving.

When compared to mature cities like London and New York, African cities can currently be considered to be behind the ‘competitive’ curve. However, this is not a pre-destined outcome as African cities can, through the successful adoption of the ideology and technology underpinning the Smart Cities concept, become globally competitive. Africa has a disproportionately young population with 62% of the population under 25 years of age. This together with a “can do” attitude” makes for an interesting consideration as a distinctive value driver for future African Smart Cities.

Questions to consider during presentation

  1. What makes a Smart City?
  2. Can African cities ever catch up on this “competitive curve?
  3. How could African cities differentiate themselves as “Smart Cities?
Lindiwe Kwele
Deputy City Manager of Tshwane, South Africa
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