Smart cities are no longer a talk of the future, they are already here with us and growing quickly as the Internet of Things (IoT) expands and continuously impacts municipal services around the world. And Africa is not quiet about this; it’s ready to leapfrog its development through the implementation of smart cities while leveraging our natural resources judiciously.
Over the past decade, many information technology companies have predicted Africa to be “the next big market” due to the emergence of many rapidly growing economies. As such, African cities are at the cross-roads of developing the African continent.
Just recently, Cameroon hosted the ICT Africa Symposium from July 11 to 14, 2017 with the aim of bringing together experts and stakeholders in the digital world charged with the development of cities in general and smart cities in particular.
Among other objectives, the meeting was out to “welcome and support the advent of Smart Cities on the African continent, to anticipate and prevent the risk of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the construction of ubiquitous cities,” as well as to invite reflection on the conversion of vulnerable people to the era of emergence.
Africa’s drive to development can be fastened by the construction of ubiquitous cities that work with the internet of things; connecting cities to the internet for improved city management. Being aware of the type of air we breathe, the water we drink, the fuels we use and how our cities are organized, have a heavy burden on the environment and smart cities appear to address all these.
Cities like Lagos, Accra and Nairobi have started implementing this new idea as more and more municipal administrators continuously buy into the idea of smarter cities for Africa. Municipal administrators are definitely one of the major actors in the implementation and development of Africa’s smart cities, given their direct involvement with cities.
These are some of the cities in Africa that are incorporating “smart” into some of their major cities.
Traffic queues are increasingly becoming synonymous to most major African cities. In May 2012, the Accra metropolitan planning authority approved plans for a central control tower to monitor and regulate traffic flow. With help from big data and cloud-computing technologies, Accra’s transport officers can use mobility patterns and analysis based on mobile phone signals during rush hour to inform intelligent traffic management.
In Nairobi, IBM uses big data analytics to mine footage from CCTV cameras around the city. Even though there are only 16 traffic cameras, by using mathematical models to build analytics, engineers are able to infer the missing network coverage.
The IBM Research lab in Nigeria intends to work with Virtual Streets (a mapping company) to install sensors on vehicles that will be able to detect pot-holes and speed bumps which have most often, caused fatal accidents.
Other African cities are also looking forward to being a major player in the smart cities adventure; Abuja, Durban and Mombasa. Cameroon may also be on the road to being smart with the hosting of the ICT Africa Symposium.
Developing and building smart cities in Africa could just be one way of increasing the continent’s sustainable growth and empowering its citizens with the necessary information they need on a daily basis in a bid to address socio-economic problems in most African nations.