The myth and deception of ‘Smart Cities’ in Africa
It is certainly not wrong to think in futuristic terms that attempt to paint a utopian picture of life in African urban areas. What is wrong however is being oblivious to the immediate contexts surrounding African societies not only in urban areas but in rural areas as well. Africa has abounded with narratives of smart cities but without fixing the fundamentals of existence, it remains completely meaningless.
This should be gleaned from the context of radically urbanizing Africa, taking notes and blueprints from much of the developed world. A particular example is Akon’s sustainable smart city called Akon City, to be located in Senegal. It will use a cryptocurrency called Akoin and will cost a mammoth $6 billion to be brought to life. The futuristic metropolis (a total of 2,000 acres in size) will include a luxury resort, condos, offices, a hospital, a stadium, and an artificial intelligence data center. The details of Akon City are sketchy, including its investor and how it will be constructed.
Another smart city, developed along science fiction lines, is Eko Atlantic City in Lagos, Nigeria. Work has already begun – a grand project that will require 140 million tons of sand as it is being constructed on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. And of course, the environmental concerns are being disregarded since the building is already underway.
Other cities going the smart city route include Cape Town and Nairobi. Other projects include Hope and King City in Ghana, Vision City in Kigali, Rwanda, Kenya’s new tech hub Konza technology city, and Waterfall City in South Africa.
The International Telecommunication Union defines a smart city as an “innovative city that uses ICTs [information and communication technologies] and other means to improve quality of life, the efficiency of urban operation and services and competitiveness.” All these mentioned cities are high sounding, but the nuances of Africa’s complexities when it comes to equitable distribution of wealth are lost.
Source: The African Exponent