South Africa is considering its smart cities

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From our correspondent in Johannesburg,

With an urban growth rate that should be, by 2050, the highest in the world, Africa is constantly thinking about what will be its cities of tomorrow. And the answer may lie in the concept of smart cities, which would correspond particularly well to the continent, according to Andile Skosana, director of the consultancy firm Citycon Africa.

The paradox of Africa is that the very young population is already adapted to technologies. She uses mobile payments and is very proficient with the Internet, she has already moved on to the fourth industrial revolution. So I think the most modern technologies are the most suitable for solving the continent’s problems. For example, take self-driving cars: these are services that could be programmed for the poorest populations, to make up for the lack of mobility and distances. »

What about existing townships

The smart city also responds to the dream of being able to start from scratch, particularly in South Africa, where current cities bear the stigma of segregation. But for Geci Karuri-Sebina, a researcher associated with the South African Cities Network, it would be better to focus on existing neighborhoods, rather than creating cities from scratch.

The biggest challenge we have in this country is to make all of these things possible in the existing townships of Alexandra, Soweto, Mamelodi », explains the researcher. ” So on the one hand, we have these big new and technological city projects, where in Africa there are a lot of examples, like Konza City in Kenya – and I think it’s all a bit of a fad – but on the other hand, we also have these huge cities that already exist, with their problems that must be solved in a smarter way », stresses Geci Karuri-Sebina.

► To listen also: How to build “smart cities” in Africa

Financial difficulties, a brake for “smart cities”

These gigantic “smart city” projects also represent very heavy budgets. François Fouche, economist and teacher at the business school of the University of Pretoria, warns against the difficulties in financing them.

For a smart city to see the light of day, it needs a certain financial feasibility “, he says. ” And the problem with a lot of projects in Africa is that it’s been hard to get to that level. We need to develop more professional and serious feasibility studies, so that the project is really well supported and can reach such a level. », warns François Fouche.

South Africa is planning to contribute up to one billion euros in public investment to launch its project in Lanseria, which should include part of social housing.

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