Opinion: 5 Predictions On What Future African Cities Will Look Like

Written by Staff

From TakeApart. Story by Bosun Tijani, CEO of Co-Creation Hub, a social innovation center in Nigeria.

Africa in the 21st century is largely a tale of its cities. The continent is now home to more than 400 million urbanites—an exciting shift I discussed with many of the leaders gathered last month for the Clinton Global Initiative Middle East and Africa meeting in Marrakech.

These urban centers are also driving economic expansion, fostering innovation, and creating unprecedented possibilities for future generations.

Below, five forecasts on what future of African cities will look like from those who are seeing change happen firsthand.

1. Tech sectors will shift city borders—or erase them

Events this century may shake up our long-held ideas about what physically separates cities. “The growth in information and communication technology will soon erase the ‘official’ borders of cities, and we may end up with megacities that span across national borders, organized instead around capabilities and expertise,” says Phuti Mahanyele, CEO of the South African investment holding company Shanduka Group and a recent panelist at CGI Middle East and Africa.

2. Cities will seek local solutions to climate change

Africa is the continent most susceptible to the effects of climate change. But with the help of innovative local solutions, its cities could emerge as global leaders.

African cities are already leading the way through remarkable community-driven solutions, according to Gesare Chife, cofounder and executive director of the Dr. Aloy & Gesare Chife Foundation, which focuses on technology advancement in Africa. The Chife Foundation partnered with Nigeria’s Anam community to plan the design of a new town — Anam New City — that can ensure a better future for families and farmers facing a changing climate.

In Anam New City, Nigerian wetlands resulting from floods are a critical contributor to regional biodiversity and ecological strength.

3. Wireless Tech and Internet of Things Will Spur Social Impact

“Today in Africa, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate a bank from a mobile network operator,” says Judith Owigar, president of Akirachix, a nonprofit that supports African women in tech. She believes surging mobile penetration in the region will continue to increase financial inclusion.
Kenya Equity Bank is offering mobile SIM cards to its customers to manage fund transfers within its network, while the biggest telecoms operators in Kenya, such as Safaricom, now offer banking services to their customers, Owigar says. “This fluidity of implementation provides a great opportunity for underserved communities in African cities to be addressed and for the creation of markets where there were previously none.”

Owigar also foresees gaps in Africa being filled by the “Internet of Things”—a network in which things, or even animals, are endowed with technology that allows them to communicate with one another…
Because of limited infrastructure in Africa, the Internet of Things provides an opportunity to build adaptive and innovative solutions that would benefit individuals, communities and various sectors, she says. “The increase of mobile penetration, the cheap cost of cloud computing, and the advancement of data analysis—along with the reducing costs of sensors—makes the Internet of Things more accessible in Africa.

4. Lessons from the Ebola outbreak will increase investments in health care infrastructure

“When the largest Ebola outbreak in history spread rapidly across Africa over the past year, eventually reaching Lagos—Africa’s most populous city—Nigeria faced an epidemic,” says Tunji Funsho, chairman of Rotary International’s PolioPlus program in Nigeria. “Instead, the country repurposed and adapted its polio eradication infrastructure to thwart the virus in just 90 days. The World Health Organization called this response ‘world-class,’ and I see it as model for other nations to keep their cities safe and resilient.”

As Africa’s cities continue to experience rapid population growth, they’ll need a system of health care and response mechanisms that can bear the burden.

5. Innovation hubs will drive further creativity and collaboration

As for my own prediction, I think the future of Africa’s cities is in its innovation hubs. From BongoHive in Lusaka and iHub in Nairobi to our Co-Creation Hub in Lagos, the emergence of innovation hubs provides the missing link for young creative talents to experiment with unlikely ideas. Within the past decade, these spaces have sprouted up across the continent as catalysts for tech ventures, incubators for innovative ideas, and IT resources for the local community—and the movement is only getting bigger.

Read more at TakeApart.