It is widely predicted that the future of many African nations will be urbanization with the population moving to cities from the rural communities that they currently reside in. Statistically 15% of Africans were living in cities in 1960 but that is now 40% with the pace of change exceeding European transition and the proportion exceeding that of Southern Asia.
This transition will require political change and financial investment but the concern is that this is not in pace with the population transition to urban places. Studies have shown that the there would be need to be significant investment in infrastructure to be able to service the increase demand on the cities across the continent. It is estimated that the annual cost to maintain current infrastructure is $130-170 billion, with a further $100 billion of new investment required to meet the new demand.
In addition to the horizontal and vertical infrastructure, there is also a lack of land use planning controls and master planning vision that the Western world provides through local and regional Government. This is certainly a factor for the future urban utopia but the impact of the lack of regulatory controls is also having a financial impact. This disproportionate cost is holding back the "progress" of development in a long term sustainable way. African cities are 29% more expensive overall than non-African cities with similar income levels (World Bank)
Simply stated the population pays, 100% more for transportation 55% more for housing 35% more for food
A more relatable comparison is that only now that cellular networks are spanning the continent - something taking for granted elsewhere in the world where mobile technology is immersed in our daily lives. Big Data is the latest buzzword in technology futures and the increased connectivity of the African network will lead to the opportunity for Smart Cities as part of this urbanization. Nigeria has Eko Atlantic, Kenya is developing Taty City and Rwanda at Vision City.
Rwanda has the greatest population density than any other nation in the continent and is accelerating its urban growth with the developing Kigali Innovation City that is focussed around higher education and technology incubators. The demand for new technology in Africa is attracting new investment. Ethiopia has Chinese investment in waste-to-energy facilities generating 30% of Addis Ababa's energy needs from 80% of the refuse it generates; and Kenya has just launched its first satellite in to space - the first African Nation to participate.
The pace of change however is that these new shiny examples of urban places are not expensive and are not affordable for the majority of new African urbanites. There is a real opportunity for this urban growth to de designed and delivered sustainably with a focus on infrastructure resiliency. We have seen the impact of climate change of established developed parts of the world, the impact on communities and the cost of recovery.
Let's think differently about the future of Africa and its people and plan for the future of the changing world we live in.
Learning Smart Cities Kigali Vision video