African countries are gearing up to accelerate socio-economic development through affordable access to broadband and use of appropriate information and communication technologies (ICTs), under Smart Africa agenda.
Part of this is to find ways to leverage the principles of urban planning and technology solutions to promote efficiency of cities.
Under the ‘Smart Cities’ initiative, multiple sector stakeholders and industry players met in Kigali, last week, to discuss plans for the implementation stage.
The consultative workshop brought together experts in urban development and planning, environment, investors, entrepreneurs and innovators as well those from construction and transport, among other areas.
According to Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the minister for youth and ICT, the workshop provided a platform for all concerned people to review the smart Africa cities blueprint draft, and a way forward for what needs to be done.
“The biggest thing that came out of this workshop is the clear vision of what we want from smart cities. We talked about connectivity, security, digital service delivery, efficiently managed utilities, environment protection, health, education, and the list goes on. Everything that makes the lives of city dwellers good,” he told The New Times on the sidelines of the workshop.
Organised by the Ministry of Youth and ICT, together with Smart Africa Secretariat, the meeting enabled experts to make significant contributions to developing the ‘smart cities’ working framework.
Hamadoun Toure, the executive secretary of Smart Africa Secretariat, said the initiative presents immense opportunities to address some of the biggest challenges on the continent.
“Smart cities initiative presents opportunities to us to address challenges of youth unemployment on the continent. As we will be implementing, new services will be created, new jobs and beyond this new applications will be developed by the young people to build smart cities,” he said.
According to the UN Habitat, there are 3.5 billion people living in cities today, and it is estimated that by 2030, almost 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas where 95 per cent of urban expansion in the next decades will take place in the developing world.
“In the face of the challenges associated with rapid urbanisation and the obvious need to develop a sustainable model to support anticipated growth, several cities in the world have set aspirations to become smarter, drawing interest from governments, development community and the private sector around the world,” said Toure.
The smart cities agenda seeks to integrate urban planning, physical infrastructure, urban facilities, public space, service provision and ICT infrastructure into management and provision of critical public utilities and services in rural and urban setting.
Although the roadmap of smart cities looks good on the paper, Nsengimana said there might be challenges during the implementation process.
“Of course, challenges may be there but we already have plans to deal with them. One of them would be human capacity that is available to develop those solutions and run the businesses around these cities. But we brought the academia on board to identify which kind of capacity is required to develop the successful smart cities agenda,” he said.
The minister also pointed to challenge of having resources, but assured the role of the private sector throughout the process. He also mentioned that there are outreach mechanisms in place to create awareness to get people ready for new developments.