Why tech leaders are rethinking the smart city concept for Africa

Tech leaders have been advocating for the concept of smart cities — which use technology such as IoT, AI and 5G — to deal with Africa’s burgeoning population. But there is debate about whether to focus on building such cities from the ground up, or incorporate emerging tech into existing communities.

smart city
Cisco

Public administration officials and technology leaders have been advocating for the concept of smart cities — which use technology such as IoT, AI and 5G for cost-efficient service delivery — as an answer to issues raised by Africa’s burgeoning population and increasing urbanization.

Projects to build smart cities from the ground up take years to complete however, and some experts have been advocating for a more modular approach, calling for the incorporation of emerging technology into existing urban infrastructure.

What are smart cities?

Smart cities integrate components such as sensors with IoT networks and information and operational technology to monitor and control infrastructure, devices and the flow of data, with the overall goal of improving the standard of living for residents. Superfast 5G is used to connect components wirelessly, and AI applications are often used to monitor and control networks, and do predictive maintenance.

Big greenfield projects such as Konza Technopolis, in Kenya, and Lanseria Smart City, in South Africa, are moving ahead. As emerging technology is being deployed throughout Africa and becoming more readily available, though, there is a growing debate about whether more focus should be placed on modernising existing communities.

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