At the crossroads, Africa must make choices for development and development of its urban centers. Smart Cities are regularly presented as the solution to the rampant urbanization of the Continent. But is the model of the classic Smart City transferable in Africa? Yes, acquiescent smart city specialists who nevertheless emphasize the imperative to redevelop, redefine and adapt the concept to African realities.
By 2100, Africa will see its population increase from 1.2 billion people (17% of the world population) to 4.4 billion (40% of the world’s population), according to a UN report. published in 2017. A demographic growth going hand in hand with a galloping and anarchic urbanization, posing with acute the question of the arrangement of the spaces.
Proposed as an alternative to Africa for an efficient and sustainable management of its cities of tomorrow, the Smart City was originally designed to solve problems of urban planning and sustainable development of cities in the North. It was designed as an urban space with multiple electronic data sensors to generate information to effectively manage resources and assets, according to a widely accepted definition. “The Smart City is a city with a smart economy, smart mobility, a smart environment, smart people and a smart lifestyle,” says Raymond Aboki, a specialist in community support and territorial projects. . These characteristics also constitute the bedrock of the African Smart City to design with, in addition, an integration of user needs.
The features of the African Smart City
The African Smart City should provide solutions to facilitate mobility, reduce energy consumption, provide optimal and innovative solutions for waste management and sanitation, assist in the design and construction of green public institutions, offer a wide range of material choices that are efficient and necessary for energy efficiency. The African Smart City should also be able to foster job creation and digital development. These are the classic features of the smart city to adapt to local realities. “In terms of challenge, when we want to be inspired by external models, it is essential to keep in mind that we have our own uses in our countries,” says Ousseynou Nakoulima, Director of the Renewable Energies Department of the AfDB. In fact, several African countries have tried to implement the concept locally, in collaboration with companies that specialize in energy efficiency.
Place for energy service companies and “super ESCO”
On the continent, the issue of reducing the energy consumption of buildings, industries and businesses is often driven by SMEs called ESCO “Energy services companies” or energy service companies. They offer services related to energy efficiency, which can reduce consumption by up to 40%. “A young engineer can set up an engineering services company and, for example, visit a hotel to offer an audit of energy consumption, make adjustments and replace certain lighting equipment or modes, reinforce insulation, etc. And with these investments, he will announce to the management of the establishment that they can reduce the energy bill at this or that level, “explains Jalel Chabchoub, Director of Investments at ADB, one of the partners of these initiatives.
These job-generating projects can also be supported by large companies called “super ESCOs”.
Projects must meet the requirement “to create a connection between projects designed, those to be executed and the reality of the requirement of the inhabitants,” recalls Raymond Aboki. The use of so-called green energy service companies has been successfully tested in Africa. Support for these job-creating businesses is pushing others to become more energy efficient. “We are targeting engineering companies, manufacturers who have the capacity to subsidize projects, distributors and all those who are in contact with customers,” says Jalel Chabchoub.
In partnership with these energy efficiency champions, several African countries have developed smart cities or are carrying out projects that could lead to smart cities.
These African smart cities
Tunisia, through its National Agency for Energy Efficiency, has developed the “green mosques” program. “It aims to improve energy efficiency in about 6,000 mosques in Tunisia, thanks to LED lighting and the use of solar panels,” reports the investment manager of the ADB. Further south of the Continent, Benin has also developed its French-language digital campus at the University of Abomey-Calavi. “To make the digital campus project a lever for development, we need talent, but also topics that globalize and offer African solutions to African issues and issues,” warns Aboki nevertheless. Also worthy of note is the establishment of YabaconValley in Nigeria; Konza City in Kenya; the city of Zenata in Morocco, the mega project The capital Cairo in Egypt, etc. It remains to be seen whether these cities meet the dual requirements of meeting the needs of local users and fulfilling the classic criteria of the Smart City?