What does a smart African city look like?

What does a smart African city look like? With over 1.3 billion people projected to be living in African cities by 2050, this question is key for planning and designing sustainable, low-carbon African cities that provide adequate services to their residents.

This video, featuring research from the ACC’s Anton Cartwright’s ‘Better Growth, Better Cities: Rethinking and Redirecting Urbanisation in Africa‘ report, highlights the need for planners to listen to the needs of citizens, and the need for visionary interventions and good governance.


“Prosperous low-carbon African cities are not just a good idea but a humanitarian prerogative, and in terms of climate change it’s globally significant and necessary if we’re all going to survive,” says Cartwright.

“We need to start looking ahead to what African cities are going to look like in 50 years,” says Christina Culwick, with the Gauteng City Region Observatory. “We need to start looking at innovative ways of infrastructure networks and looking at the way we provide services: not just the fact that they are provided but the way in which they are provided, that moves us toward a low-carbon trajectory.”

Strong leadership and policy will be required to build smart African cities along with an alignment between governments and the private sector.

“Plans become just plans if there is no strong leadership, no strong policies,” says Damani Hlalele, director of Arup South Africa. “Most importantly, a plan is a plan if there is no money. So there needs to be financing to be able to finance some of these projects.”

Climate finance offers a new avenue for financing the growth of smart cities through blending private sector capital with public finance, says Richard Calland, associate professor of public law at the University of Cape Town. “We’ve got to decide — when we spend trillions of dollars over the next 20 years in Africa in cities where does that money go? What does it build? Does it build dirty infrastructure or clean green infrastructure?”

Access the ‘Better Growth, Better Cities‘ report online.

Photo: Johannesburg at night by flickr user Roger Gordon.


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