Africa Health, Counties, Stories, blog

Jon Silver for LSE Africa blog on African smart cities

The current announcement by IBM creating its twelfth global laboratory in Nairobi has adopted a boost in news about Wise metropolitan areas across urban Africa. Included in this are IBM’s inclusion of Durban and Abuja in the Wiser Metropolitan areas Challenge, an array of summits and conferences, along with arranging a number of new wise urban extensions around the periphery of major conurbations for example Accra and Kinshasa. Together these developments are producing an ever increasing clamour concerning the potential for wise urbanism to change urban Africa with the integration of digital technologies across networked infrastructures, offering resource efficiencies, global competition, safer metropolitan areas and eventually much greater treatments for the built atmosphere and everyday existence.

Such coverage is frequently predicated on these techno-futures enabling methods to leapfrog other global regions through next-gen infrastructure and technology. The pictures and stories of wise futures in metropolitan areas like Rio, described in endless representations through its control room, and major Northern metropolitan areas for example London and New You are able to are ubiquitous and firmly established within the imaginary of policymakers and also the wider public. The perception of wise in urban Africa Blog to be less visible (a minimum of on the global level) up till now. But because things change, an upswing of Afro-Wise metropolitan areas will require a lot more attention from individuals thinking about rapid urbanization and connected challenges of poverty and development faced by these diverse metropolitan areas. For behind the broadly circulated pictures of slum residents using mobile technologies to enhance lives, the dominance of huge ICT companies, a splintered urban landscape, land dispossession and also the securitization of urban space reveal a far more complicated potential wise urban future.

Stylish hi-tech start-ups, globally-connected youthful entrepreneurs and recently set up broadband infrastructures form a vital component from the Afro-Wise city or “digital revolution” narrative. In metropolitan areas for example Kigali new techno-cultures are emerging and looking to create the Wise city to some much bigger proportion of people through cheap and accessible wise-phones, effective place-based appsand growing public curiosity about wise technologies being produced by African-based designers and customers themselves. This new generation of Wise city leaders is progressively connected through tech modems and incubators for brand new companies with spaces for example BantaLabs, Saint-Louis, Senegal right through to Hive CoLab, Kampala offering spaces for collaboration and addressing both specific ICT challenges and possibilities being faced across urban Africa Book.

Contributing to this wise wave, rising interest from ICT companies,consultancies for example Deloitte and equity is producing elevated investment and policy focus around Wise metropolitan areas. Yet the existence of global ICT companies across African metropolitan areas, including IBM’s relationship with Nairobi poses similar inquiries to individuals being requested across cities in other areas around the globe about who really advantages of the implementation of wise technologies, growing flows of large data and also the cost to be wise. As Adam Greenfield, in the excellent book ‘ From the Wise city’ cautions, such futures may be simply a (techno) utopian fantasy that, once unravelled, discloses nothing more than the outlet of marketplaces and possibilities to make money for big companies. Nowhere are these effective stories of Wise city futures better articulated compared to the plethora of urban development projects being went after over the region.

New infrastructure and city extensions are now being planned and built over the length and breadth from the region with promises of Wise city living that concentrate on that emerging but many unsteady of terms, the African middle-class. Included in this are projects in existing metropolitan areas for example Gauteng, that has joined into partnership with BWired to determine new broadband systems over the city. Yet, as bloggers for example Nancy Oderdaal have lengthy observed, the splintered character of ICT infrastructures across urban Africa shows a obvious spatial division between your poor and wealthy that might be further cemented by changes towards wise systems.

In addition to reconfiguring existing urban space for that wise city, an array of new city extensions promising potential citizens a technologies, data drive future, from the apparently chaotic (and unconnected) roads of other areas from the city are emerging and reflecting individuals well-known global hubsof Wise city hubris. Such Wise city developments therefore are frequently designed beyond existing metropolitan areas as well as their slum areas. Konza Techno City, 60km from Nairobi within the recently named “Silicon Savannah” and Hope City, Ghana both promise hi-tech jobs, global corporate interest, advanced building design and speed connectivity.

Yet problems in delivering these urban development projects are myriad and sure to entrench inequalities across already divided and contested metropolitan areas. For instance, La Cite du Fleuve, in DR Congo, superbly deconstructed by Filip P Boek, is creating a number of overlapping causes of tension in Kinshasa including struggles around land possession and problems with dispossession that start to lay bare the rhetoric of those urban developments. Such urban extensions might offer wise living for urban residents but echoing the gated towns of history couple of decades also need to be understood as new frontiers for capital accumulation along with a obvious illustration showing business industries and areas of society pulling out in the wider city and society into enclaves or archipelagos of technical complexity. Students are recording such processes over the global South, most conspicuously Ayona Datta in India. This emerging understanding indicates the stark urban inequalities contained in metropolitan areas rarely is in addressed during these Wise city developments. Rather, dynamics of land dispossession, which are starting to mirror the broader and continuing land getting over the region, threaten, as Vanessa Watson has gracefully written, to show these urban dreams into bad dreams. For more details visit us - or search by

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