HomeRegional NewsAfricaIt takes decades to develop a smart city

It takes decades to develop a smart city

On a tour of Lagos in late November 2014, I visited the bare construction site of Eko Atlantic. The site had nothing to show other than its potential to become a metropolis.

On arriving at the visitor’s centre, a model of the city gave solid proof of the intention to become home to businesses and modern living spaces. First impressions last forever, and I was duly amazed by the sheer size of the endeavour, thinking that this reclaimed land would sport a circular economy on a grand scale one day. The brainchild behind the development started as a vision to protect Victoria Island’s coastline from sea erosion. It would also address the chronic shortage of prime real estate in Lagos.

The article appeared in ESI Africa Issue 2-2021.
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Climate risk in 2014 was not a hot topic, but Eko Atlantic developers had the foresight to tackle the eroding coastline. Even the President of Togo, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, who pays particular attention to the issues of global warming and protection against coastal degradation in Africa, in 2019 commended Eko Atlantic City on its technique adopted to provide a permanent solution to coastal erosion.

But it is not the defence against rising sea levels that makes Eko a smart city. Like other such developments, it focuses on modernising living standards that address environmental, sustainability, socio-economic and governance principles—all of which can deliver an inclusive, connected and more thoughtful urban experience.

Naturally, when we consider the elements of a smart city, the Internet of Things comes to mind, where innovative digital solutions link all utilities in a cohesive automated system. The impression is symbiotic lifestyles where electric vehicles feed power into the grid, and all utility services know precisely how much, where, and when needed.

The reality is very different. Smart cities, like Eko Atlantic, take time to develop, and problems will arise that don’t fit in with the initial concept. Such developments require considerable funding and much time before a return on investment can materialise. Nevertheless, it is a start, and more such endeavours are needed.

Why take the risk? A recent Frost & Sullivan report projects smart cities will create business opportunities worth $2.46 trillion by 2025, and these cities will spend $327 billion on technology by 2025. If our cities don’t aspire to ‘intelligent’ living, environments, transportation, and more, we will miss out on the economic opportunities.

To quote David Olatunji, President and Founder of the African Smart Cities Innovation Foundation (ASCIF) in Nigeria: “Smart living and smart lives should be something we are all trying to emulate.” I concur but add that we must make haste as development takes years. ESI

Until the next edition.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Nicolette is the Editor of ESI Africa print journal, ESI-Africa.com and the annual African Power & Energy Elites. She is passionate about placing African countries on the international stage and is driven by the motto "The only way to predict the future is to create it". Join her in creating a sustainable future through articles and multimedia content.