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The skyline of three modern cities

New city developments in Africa have been a point of interest recently: what they look like, the thinking around them, and who would live there. We spotlight three smart cities in Africa and some of their key features.

The article appeared in ESI Africa Issue 2-2021.
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Urbanisation, coupled with technological advancements, is taking place on the African continent at lightning speed. The focus of development in three major centres is on building digital, eco-friendly and service-driven cities of the future.

South Africa: Waterfall City, South Africa

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Developer: Attacq

Construction cost: $1.05 billion

Size: 2,200 hectares

Set for completion in 2027, Waterfall City is currently the largest operational mixed-use development in Africa. It comprises ten residential areas and, in 2021, reported 43% completion, with over 1.6 million square metres of Gross Leasable Area still to be developed. While construction continued through 2020-21, approximately 12,000 residents already call it home, and, home to the Mall of Africa, about 26,000 people work in the Waterfall precinct daily.

Centred as the new economic hub of South Africa, the smart city comprises several intelligent buildings and a world-class fibre optic and wireless communication network, with over 330km of installed duct infrastructure and no less than 33 cell masts.

Waterfall City has been built from the ground up, leveraging the very best urban design and green technology. Sustainability has been integrated into every aspect of this development. A cornerstone of sustainability is measurement, and for this, data is a crucial asset – and its application for insights is critical to how the city’s development unfolds. The more data gathered, analysed and leveraged to inform strategy, the more meaningful its contribution to environmental impact reduction.

The development, situated in Midrand, Gauteng, secured top honours for Best International Mixed-use Development 2019- 2020 at the annual World’s Best International Property Awards.

Waterfall currently contributes over $31 million per year in rates and taxes to the City of Johannesburg.

East Africa: Konza Technopolis, Kenya

Location: Machakos County

Developer: HR&A Advisors, Inc

Construction cost: $10.8 billion

Size: 2,000 hectares

Konza Technopolis (Konza) will be a smart city with an integrated urban information and communication technology (ICT) network that supports the delivery of connected urban services and efficiently manages those services on a large scale. The Konza smart city framework will integrate the following four essential city services:

• Infrastructure services (transportation, utilities, public safety and environment)

• Citizen services (access and participation)

• City services (city information, planning and development)

• Business services (supportive services for local commerce)

As a smart city, Konza will gather data from intelligent devices and sensors embedded in the urban environment, such as roadways and buildings. Data will be shared via a smart communications system and analysed by software that delivers valuable information and digitally enhanced services to Konza’s population.

The technopolis’ population will also have direct access to collected data, including traffic maps, emergency warnings, and detailed information describing energy and water consumption. Data availability will enable residents to participate directly in the city’s operations, practise more sustainable living patterns, and enhance overall inclusiveness.

By leveraging the smart city framework, Konza will be able to optimise its city services, creating a sustainable city that responds directly to the needs of its residents, workers and visitors.

West Africa: Eko Atlantic, Nigeria

Location: Lagos State

Developer: South Energyx Nigeria Limited Construction

cost: $6 billion

Size: 1,000 hectares

Eko Atlantic, being built on Victoria Island adjacent to Lagos, Nigeria, is 10 million square metres of land reclaimed from the ocean and protected by an 8.5km long sea wall. The West African smart city includes state-of-the-art urban design, own power generation and clean water, advanced telecommunications, spacious roads, and tree-lined streets.

Infrastructural road works and underground surface drainage pipes already lie along major routes across the new city. Eko Atlantic will have independent reliable electricity, advanced fibre optic telecoms, and clean water utility services installed below street level.

The infrastructure within the city includes:

• Roads: 1,500m long eight-lane boulevard, well-planned road network, 15 bridges and an underpass to curb traffic within and outside the city.

• Waterfront: Mariners, which can accommodate about 300 vessels.

• Water and sanitation: An independent clean and treated water supply that meets the WHO standard, well-planned sewage collection system, underground surface drainage pipes that pass water back to the ocean, underground storm drainage pipes, and sewage treatment plan converting sewage to fertiliser.

• Environment: A tree nursery with the capacity to produce a minimum of 250,000 trees.

• Utilities: An independent reliable electricity grid, advanced fibre optic telecoms, LED bulbs promoting energy efficiency and better illumination, and clean water utility services installed below street level.

Konza Technopolis, artist’s impression. Source: Konza Technopolis, Development Authority
Waterfall City. Source: Attacq Waterfall Investment Company

Meanwhile, more cities are in the pipeline, such as Rwanda’s Green City Kigali, which will take a holistic approach to integrate green buildings, renewable energy, recycling and inclusive living. In South Africa, the proposed Lanseria Smart City is based on best practice in urban sustainability and the principles underpinning the smart city concept.

Smart cities in Africa will undoubtedly face insurmountable challenges with the historical and present-day challenges that the continent has. They also provide an opportunity for an inclusive, connected and more thoughtful urban experience for the continent’s people. ESI

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