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East Africa to get its First Dedicated Technology City

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

An ambitious scheme is underway to create a vast technology city on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya.

With information technology proliferating across Africa after decades of stagnation and underinvestment, a host of exciting new technologies have had to exist within structures not built for the 21st century.

One attempt to change things is Konza Technology City (konzacity.co.ke), an ambitious project that aims to build the infrastructure to host the companies of the 21st century for Kenya and East Africa. Konza Technology City joins a growing network of technology cities and parks across the global South. If the links between these centres of technological innovation and smart thinking can be strengthened, they have the potential to contribute to exceptional gains in human development.

Konza Technology City will be built on 5,000 acres (2,023 hectares) of land 60 kilometres south of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The lead agency on the US $10 billion project is the Ministry of Information and Communication (http://www.information.go.ke/). The Kenyan government is seeking partners and investors to help with funding the project, whose components include a business process outsourcing (BPO) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_process_outsourcing) zone – where specific business functions are contracted to third party providers. There is also a financial district and a commercial district with office space.

This will be combined with the other side of Konza: hotels, hospitals, a sports stadium and other support services necessary to support a city. The idea is to develop the site over a period of 20 years, with the BPO and IT Educational and Science Park taking up 23 per cent of the site.

Kenya plans to expand its business process outsourcing sector and has been hosting conferences in Europe to gather the best advice. The sector has experienced double-digit growth in the past three years, rising on the increasing capacity brought by new undersea cables like TEAMs, Seacom and EASSy.

The idea is to put in place the building blocks of a 21st century Kenya and to become the leading hub for the whole of East Africa. Kenya has an ambitious plan to become a middle-income country by 2030 (http://www.vision2030.go.ke/).

There is scepticism about large projects in Kenya, with some fearing they will be abandoned before they are finished. But it does seem this project has galvanized a wide community of support. According to IT Web’s (http://www.itweb.co.za/) Ken Macharia, opponents of the project make various arguments. People in the information and communication technologies sector would like to see greater local capacity in place before such massive investment in buildings goes ahead. Others oppose the idea of having a planned city and would like to see things evolve organically. Still others question the government’s capacity to undertake such an ambitious scheme.

According to Macharia, the ‘if you build it, they will come’ argument is winning the day. The scope and ambition of the project has both excited many players within and outside government and focused their efforts.

Macharia even believes the public sector is way ahead of the private sector.

“The government is light years ahead in terms of the vision and drive of developing the ICT sector in the country, while the private sector is trying to catch up,” he said.

Kenya will become the first country in the region to build a technology city. It can look to China for some examples. One is Shenzhen City and its Science and Technology Park (http://www.ship.gov.cn/en/index.asp?bianhao=20). Or Cairo, Egypt’s Smart Village (http://www.smart-villages.com/).

Macharia also says the focus solely on technology is missing the bigger impact Konza can have.

“The city’s concept has financial, educational, commercial and industrial implications, which have not been sold as aggressively as the tech aspect has. Perhaps the better name for the proposed city would be Konza Special Economic Zone, where the key pillars mutually benefit from each other’s presence. Technology, after all, is a means to an end, not the end itself.”

The timing for a place like Konza City is excellent: undersea cables are being placed around and to Africa. The continent was notorious for being the most underserved continent on the planet and is in a furious transition from this information technology wasteland to a potential oasis of prosperity.

The undersea cable projects are promising a bandwidth explosion for the continent of Africa. The WACS cable (http://wacscable.com/index.jsp) is being put in place to link South Africa and Britain, and is due to be completed in 2012. It runs up the West Coast of Africa and will become the first direct connection to the undersea cable network for Namibia, the Congo and Togo.

It will increase South Africa’s bandwidth by an estimated 23 per cent.

Various technology investors, including the search engine giant Google, are also planning to build an undersea cable linking the so-called BRICS countries by 2014 – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The cable will also link them all to the United States. The technology group i3 Africa is leading the project (http://www.i3-mea.com/africa/), which should open up 21 additional African countries to the world’s undersea cable network.

Konza Technology City could make Kenya a significant beneficiary of all this new connectivity and bandwidth.

Published: July 2012

Resources

1) Center for Innovation Testing and Evaluation: CITE will represent a 20th century American city with a population of approximately 35,000 people and be built on roughly 15 square miles. CITE’s test city will be unpopulated. CITE will be a catalyst for the acceleration of research into applied, market-ready products by providing “end to end” testing and evaluation of emerging technologies and innovations from the world’s public laboratories, universities and the private sector. Website: http://www.cite-city.com/index.php

2) Dubai Internet City: Since its official opening in 2000, Dubai Internet City (DIC) has grown to become the Middle East and North Africa’s largest Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Business Park, hosting both global and regional companies. Website: http://www.dubaiinternetcity.com/

3) Songdo International Business District (IBD) officially opened on August 7, 2009 as a designated Free Economic Zone and the first new sustainable city in the world designed to be an international business district. With its strategic location just 15 minutes driving time from Incheon International Airport and 3 ½ hours flying time to 1/3 of the world’s population and regional markets such as China, Russia and Japan, Songdo IBD will position South Korea as the commercial epicenter of Northeast Asia. Website: http://www.songdo.com/

4) Nasrec Smart City: South Africa’s own ‘smart city’ is in development. Website: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=168466

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Global South’s Rising Megacities Challenge Idea of Urban Living

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The world crossed the threshold from being a majority rural world to a majority urban one at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The reason for this is the fast-growing urban areas of the global South. And this is having a profound affect on how the world’s people live.

Across the global South, there are many examples of unchecked growth leading to squalor and poor housing conditions, and in turn to poor health and high rates of crime and disorder. Yet, the urbanization happening today across the global South is unprecedented for both its speed and its scale.

And, unlike previous surges in urbanization, it is this quality that is far more challenging for governments and policymakers.

Many countries and regions are experiencing highly stressed environmental conditions, with poor access to water and rising air pollution damaging human health, for example. But on the other side, there is also unprecedented change in technology and communications taking place. Every year, more and more of the world’s population gain access to 21st century communications such as smart phones and the Internet or ‘apps’ (applications), allowing the exchange of solutions and ideas at a rapid pace.

Many are weighing up the benefits and downsides of such an urban, dense world. Denser cities make it easier and more efficient to deliver services, and proponents see a rapid rise in living standards in these megacities. Others see wide-scale poverty and vicious fights over resources in crime-ridden, unhealthy packed megacities. These pessimists point to current conditions in many megacities across the global South.

No matter what perspective, many agree there has to be a cultural change in how people live and behave to make the megacities work.

The contrasting approaches taken by two giants of the global South – India and China – provides lessons and ideas.

The first big push from rural to urban took place in Europe in the 19th century. In 1800, just three per cent of the world’s population lived in cities. All the cities now seen as cosmopolitan hubs of economic and creative energy were just shadows of themselves prior to the 19th-century industrial revolution.

Lessons were learned from hard experience and one of the most important lessons was this: if a city is to grow – and grow quickly – then it must plan for this growth and put the well-being of people at the centre of this plan. This is critical to ensure public health is improved and that the transition to more dense living conditions improves human well-being, rather than making it worse.

A megacity is a city with a population greater than 10 million people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megacity). The number of such cities will double over the next 10 to 20 years and many of these cities are in south and east Asia. By 2025, seven of the world’s top 10 megacities will be in Asia. Whole new cities are rising up that most people across the world have never heard about – yet.

One of the most rapidly urbanizing countries in the world is China. At the beginning of 2012, Chinese authorities announced the country was now a majority urban place, with most citizens living in cities. This population of 690.79 million people outpaced the rural population of 656.56 million people.

China is exploring a variety of solutions to making high-density city living work. Some of these solutions include creating multiplexes containing modern shopping, leisure, recreational and housing in one location. One example of this is The New Century Global Centre (http://cd.qq.com/a/20101018/000099.htm) in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. It is being called the world’s largest standalone complex. Chengdu is now a city of 14 million people and projected to be heading to 20 million people.

It includes design by noted Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid (zaha-hadid.com).

There are 1.5 million square metres of floor plans, two 1,000-room five-star hotels, an ice-skating rink, a 20,000 capacity marine park with 400 meters of artificial coastline and 5,000 square metres of artificial beach, including hot springs.

In contrast, the more chaotic and unplanned approach taken in India – also a country experiencing rapid growth in its cities – has come under intense criticism. Dr Rumi Aijaz of the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation (observerindia.com) told The Guardian that Indian infrastructure improvements will be difficult to achieve: “Our urban areas are in a raw form.

All the basics are at a very low level. And the Indian state has been trying for a very long time to address this but a lack of capacity and endemic corruption has meant not much success.”

In 2001, India had 290 million people living in cities. By 2008, this reached 340 million. It is predicted this will reach 590 million people – 40 per cent of the population – by 2030. McKinsey and Company (mckinsey.com) believe by 2030 India will have 68 cities of more than one million people, 13 will have four million people and six megacities will be greater than 10 million people.

India faces an urban infrastructure crisis of epic proportions, McKinsey believes. Many millions will not have access to clean drinking water, adequate sewage, and will have to cope with poor transport.

China, on the other hand, has invested seven times more in urban infrastructure than India. And one example of how this investment pays off is Chengdu.

The fast-growing city of Chengdu’s mayor is trying to manage growth directly through the city’s policies. This involves managing the push and pull incentives driving people to cities and lifting the standard of living in the surrounding countryside.

Chengdu’s mayor Ge Honglin told The Guardian: “The first thing I did was to improve the conditions – schools, shops, garbage collection, the sewage system. We had to cut the gap between rural and urban areas. If people could have a brighter future in the countryside, they’d stay there. So we’re not seeing people swarm into the city= Instead there are people in the city considering moving to the country.”

“Chengdu is the only super-large central city that has narrowed the urbanrural income gap alongside rapid economic growth in China,” Ge said.

Hundreds of schools have been built surrounding Chengdu and partnerships made between rural and urban schools to help raise standards.

Chengdu is also pioneering new ways to address urban squalor with new information technologies. Patrols use mobile phones and cameras to document broken infrastructure and health and safety problems, and to locate and assist the homeless.

“You can barely see a begger in Chengdu,” said Gu. “We have a special system for monitoring them, and it works. Beggars are taken to the assistance centre, where they are given food and shelter and money to take them back to their home. If I say there are no more than 10 beggars on the street you will think there’s some sort of tyranny, but there isn’t. We’re trying to solve their problems.”

Resources

1) Endless City and Living in the Endless City: LSE Cities is an international centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science that carries out research, education and outreach activities in London and abroad. Its mission is to study how people and cities interact in a rapidly urbanizing world, focussing on how the design of cities impacts on society, culture and the environment. Website: http://lsecities.net/publications/books/the-endless-city/

2) Planet of Slums by Mike Davis: According to the United Nations, more than one billion people now live in the slums of the cities of the South. Mike Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world. Website: http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Planet_Of_Slums.html?id=FToaDLPB2jAC

3) An infographic from The Guardian newspaper showing the rise of the megacity in world history. Website: http://image.guardian.co.uk/sysimages/Observer/Pix/pictures/2012/01/21/urban2.jpg

4) Arrival City by Doug Saunders: A third of humanity is on the move. History’s largest migration is creating new urban spaces that are this century’s focal points of conflict and change — unseen districts of rapid transformation and febrile activity that will reshape our cities and reconfigure our economies.Website: http://arrivalcity.net/

5) Global Urbanist: The Global Urbanist is an online magazine reviewing urban affairs and urban development issues in cities throughout the developed and developing world. Website: http://globalurbanist.com/

6) The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age by Daniel A. Bell and Avner de-Shalit. Website: amazon.com

7) Rise of the Asian Megacity: Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/worldasia-pacific-13800944

8) Capitals of the Connected World: Mapping the New Global Power Structure. Website: http://www.theatlantic.com/special-report/capitalsconnected-world/

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Southern Innovator Issue 5

Launched in May 2011, the new global magazine Southern Innovator (ISSN 2222-9280) is about the people across the global South shaping our new world, eradicating poverty and working towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Team | Southern Innovator Phase 1 Development (2010 – 2015)

They are the innovators.

Follow the magazine on Twitter @SouthSouth1. 

Southern Innovator Issue 1

Southern Innovator Issue 2

Southern Innovator Issue 3

Southern Innovator Issue 4

Southern Innovator Issue 5

If you would like hard copies of the magazine for distribution, then please contact the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)(https://www.unsouthsouth.org/2014/12/25/southern-innovator-magazine/).

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

Categories
Archive Blogroll

Southern Innovator Issue 4

Eco-cities Up Close

Smart Cities Up Close

Launched in May 2011, the new global magazine Southern Innovator (ISSN 2222-9280) is about the people across the global South shaping our new world, eradicating poverty and working towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Team | Southern Innovator Phase 1 Development (2010 – 2015)

They are the innovators.

Follow the magazine on Twitter @SouthSouth1. 

Southern Innovator Issue 1

Southern Innovator Issue 2

Southern Innovator Issue 3

Southern Innovator Issue 4

Southern Innovator Issue 5

If you would like hard copies of the magazine for distribution, then please contact the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)(https://www.unsouthsouth.org/2014/12/25/southern-innovator-magazine/).

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021