Monday, 18 November 2013

African Urban Matters

African Ideas recently partnered with SAP to bring their global Urban Matters programme to Africa and specifically Cape Town. The African Urban Matters event in Cape Town was held on the 14th and 15th November as a knowledge sharing platform for administrators and leaders in Local Government organisations involved understanding and planning for these African cities of the future.


At the end of 2010, just short of 40% of Africa’s population lived in cities, making it one of the world’s least urbanised regions. This figure is set to increase dramatically in the coming decades. At present, sub-Saharan Africa is second only to Eastern Asia in terms of the pace of urbanisation, with estimated annual growth of 1.26% from 2010 -2015. By 2035, the continent will reach a tipping point, when more than 50% of Africans will live in urban centres. By 2050, more than 1bn people will live in cities. In 2010, there were 94 sub-Saharan Africa cities with a population of more than 500 000 inhabitants… and in 2025 there will be 144 such cities. So issues of urban management is very important.

As the migration from rural to urban centres continues, Local government leaders are forced to address sizable challenges, in an effort to create more liveable, sustainable and productive municipalities. Municipalities are striving to provide, amongst others, a raft of critical infrastructure assets to support their growth, more effective transport systems, reliable and low-carbon energy, safe and secure water networks, and efficient and scalable social infrastructure.
Produced by the graphics facilitator out of my presentation
Rapid urbanisation is, however, not the only change facing urban planners. Technology is sprinting away at an amazing pace. Twenty years ago, no city planner considered the benefits of a smart grid, the internet was virtually non-existent and commercially available electric cars were the stuff of science fiction.

African Ideas banners at the event
African Ideas collaborated with SAP Africa to hosting an African Urban Matters event in Cape Town. We invited several local and international speakers to shares their insights and experiences.
The aim of this event was to stimulate discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing African municipalities and get collaborating around topics of innovation, technology, governance and long-term planning. City planners in Africa are looking to what cities across the world have done, and they do not want to repeat the same mistakes. They want to learn from past experiences and consider ways to leapfrog their cities into the future.
Greeting the Mayor
 The event was opened by the Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Patricia de Lille. I delivered the keynote address - setting out the context, challenges and opportunities facing Africa. I highlighted the use of technology to achieve
  • Efficient and Effective Administration
  • Improved Governance and Customer Service
  • Social and Economic Development
These are core issues that have to be addressed. I also made the point that as we move into the future, Cities (and governments in general) need to start to also focus on the the following 3 things
Delivering the keynote
  • Interconnected Systems and the “internet of things
  • Connected Citizens (who are becoming increasingly more empowered and have powerful systems of their own), and
  • Big Data Analytics. The ability to make meaning from the mass of data that is being generated from multiple sources and to be able to sense, predict and respond to issues.
Co-management - where government and citizens work much closer together to manage limited and often overburdened infrastructure and services is something that will have to considered more and more in the future - an active citizenry with an active, responsive government. Technology has a key role to play in this. 

Lazola - looking cool & admiring his handiwork
Glyn Evans, Former Director, Birmingham Transformation Programme, Birmingham City Council, spoke about their city transformation journey (which interestingly was very similar to Cape Town's). Andre Stelzner, CIO, City of Cape Town spoke about how technology was helping the City in delivering citizen value. Jak Koseff , City of Johannesburg, spoke about the social responsibility of cities and Sean O'Brien, VP (Global) Urban Matters & Public Security, SAP spoke about the global urban matters programme and how Africa was key to that. We also heard from cities in Zimbabwe (Bulawayo) and Kenya.