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Africa’s New City Projects Come at Billion-dollar Costs

We all recall President Ramaphosa’s SONA presentation, in which he set out the vision of a new smart city in SA. He is not the only President with such a dream. Fly to Dakar and you arrive in a brand new airport an hour’s drive from the city centre, on the way is the skeleton of the new city. The current wave of a new city building is largely focused on leap-frogging economic development and moving Africa’s cities directly into the age of futuristic, technologically advanced, so-called ‘smart cities’. Plans for these types of cities are sprouting up across the Continent; from Kenya, Mauritius and Senegal. Leading the way is Nigeria with 5 current on-going new city projects, which, when completed, are set to cover a land mass of 25 million square meters. An estimated $100 billion is being invested in new city projects across Africa; the new city I saw, Diamniadio, alone will cost the Senegalese government an estimated $2 billion. The assumption is that these investments will pay off. The logic is that these cities will attract the best and the brightest. In turn, this should drive productivity increases that ultimately will repay the large loans.

Cities looking to thrive in the future are encouraged to invest in creating Smart, Safe and Sustainable applications enabled by a Shared, Scalable and Secured Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure in the so-called Six S’s smart city model. The smart city IoT applications will have various requirements with direct implications on the City ICT infrastructure. These requirements will vary in terms of data volume, through-put, number of devices and the latency pattern for transferring the data. This in return mandates the need to have a robust and flexible infrastructure to support a wide range of use cases that would be implemented as part of a smart city.

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Alastair Tempest

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