Celebrating seven years linking Research to Action for
Sustainable, Inclusive, Resilient, Safe and Prosperous Cities & Communities
Despite their potential to be sustainable, inclusive, resilient and prosperous, African cities lack of a smart city foundation. A smart city foundation is composed of three elements: Urban planning and design, land policies and basic infrastructure. African cities are not adequately planned with sufficient land allocated to streets and public spaces, and they lack smart basic infrastructure and smart institutions and laws. Many settlements in the city lack a sewerage system and rainwater drainage facilities, and adequate waste management sites are missing, which are key components of smart basic infrastructure along with connection to water and energy. Flooding during rainy seasons as well as uncollected garbage is frequent phenomena in many parts of African cities, but particularly in the poor settlements. Frequent energy shortages also affect the African cities’ economy. These challenges are associated with poor land administration and governance, characterized by lack of transparency and corruption.
Lack of smart city foundation is part of the reason why digital dividends are not being reaped in most African cities. ICTs alone cannot build smart cities, but in appropriate settings they can boost growth, expand opportunities and improve service delivery. The analogue settings such as urban planning, provision of basic infrastructures and land tenure are key for smart cities. For ICT to be transformational there is a minimum requirement associated to the city foundation as well as to institutions and laws that establish the management and the administration of cities. For a city foundation to be smart, it must be inclusive at the onset of the urban planning and promote mixed neighbourhoods where social clustering is discouraged. Having all the poor living together creates slums and fuels instability and insecurity. Inclusive urban planning eases access to basic services (water, sanitation, housing, education and health) and to decent employment for all. A key element of smart urban planning is a smart street network that reduces travel time and encourages walking and social interactions. Smart urban planning enhances infrastructure development, environmental sustainability, economic and social development; makes cities resilient and prepared to overcome natural disasters; and promotes mixed neighbourhoods where services are walking distances from people’s residences.48 ICT plays a crucial role in promoting a smart city foundation, by enabling inclusiveness in planning, policy and infrastructure provision processes such as through public participation; as well as creating enormous non-physically limiting opportunities to all city residents.