Africa of my Dreams Essay Entry
Sub-theme: Smart Cities and Urban Development
‘It’s coming…its coming!’ a young boy shouts to his fellow villagers in a Globacom television advert in the early 2000s. I vividly recall the excitement which marked the rise of telecommunications in Nigeria and Ghana. Flip phones and Motorola ringtones were a sign of affluence and luxury for a privileged class in these African nations. Over a decade later, there has been a consequential rise of internet services which has transformed our mode of communication, created business opportunities and served numerous functions in day-to-day activities. High-speed interconnectivity has further enhanced the operation and the generation of information in real time. Hence, accelerating the development of national economies and their exposure to the global market. The huge significance of innovative digital technology in Africa’s industrialisation and creation of smart cities can therefore not be underestimated. It remains fundamental to the effectiveness of transport links, ultra-modern buildings, and sustainable energy which form key aspects of a smart city.
African cities such as Accra and Lagos possess skyscrapers with glass exteriors that fill the ambitious with the hope of rising to be amongst the affluent few. Paradoxically, these are surrounded by communities which are unignorably downtrodden and known for a couple of collapsed bridges, derelict houses, and dilapidated historic buildings whose sight remind you of the squandered government funds news headlines. So do I dare dream of an Africa where our cities are fit to be of the best in the world? Scattered across our smart cities would be futuristic buildings with architectural designs unbeatable for centuries to come. We will also utilise innovative engineering to preserve and incorporate sustainable design features in our historic landscapes. The worth of properties in these cities will extend beyond measly sums in international exchange rates as Africa becomes a hub of global wealth and innovation, where the rise of our buildings matches our abundance in natural resources.
In addition, the smart cities will be solidly inter-connected with the rest of the globe using high-tech modes of transportation. Cars will operate on sustainable energy whilst exhaust fumes from car engines become long-forgotten norms. The influx of these modern cars will be counterbalanced by creating smart parking solutions and changing the narrative of bicycles being exclusive to the poor. Roads which have fallen into disrepair evidenced in their puddles and bumps will be developed and maintained for safe vehicle usage. Buses and trains alike will be used to improve mobility and decrease traffic congestion. Also, stations will use high-speed trains that connect us to the farther hidden jewels of Africa and other continents. We will increase efficiency and timeliness by using systems which will aid and synchronise payment methods, journey planning and provide citizens with other transport-related information. I, therefore dream that the improvement of our transport links will make ‘African time’ operate on par with the rest of the world.
To achieve the dream of a smart city, we must not undermine the centrality of sustainable energy to power our infrastructure. As a child, I often wondered why Africa was referred to as the ‘dark continent’ and my older sister not knowing better conjured up an explanation that the title was derived from our lack of electricity which made Africa difficult to see. So, I dream of an Africa which is no longer hindered by the engulfing darkness of Dumsor or PHCN’s ruthless and erratic power supply. Our businesses will no longer fade under the loud sounds and choking fumes of generators fuelled in another expensive petrol scarcity. We will also prioritise the environment as we urbanise these cities. Households and factories will use power generated from renewable sources such as solar panels, recyclable waste and wind farms that utilise our varying seasons. Our brightest minds will innovate technology better than today’s sensors and meters which will revolutionise and optimise energy consumption. At night, we would have our street lit up with LED lighting and never again will we be a ‘dark continent.’
Equally, my dream of a smart city will cause a chain reaction for our businesses, therefore, providing a prosperous future for our youth. As in the 2000s where the telecommunications industry created multiple opportunities, smart cities will facilitate the successes of many small and medium-sized businesses. Enterprises will now bypass incurring large expenses resulting from personal power generation and a lack of infrastructure. For example, great and efficient transport links that connect ports to cities will enable the ease of transporting goods without the worry of road accidents and intense traffic congestion. There is no doubt that will also massively impact the lives of commuters, attract investors and growth in the tourism sector.
Finally, I envisage an Africa that does not lose its sense of identity and beautiful landscapes in exchange for urban infrastructural development. As I day-dream, I ask my twenty-year-old self whether these will materialise in my time. Notwithstanding, I dream of these African cities for my future children and those after so that they may tell a tale of how Africa has become the industrialised pearl of Earth. A world economic engine for finance, architecture and innovation that invites all from far and wide. Perhaps someday, parents will not have to explain to their inquisitive children about why Africa has many third-world countries although blessed immensely with resources and talents. I dream that our citizen’s affluence will result from Africa’s prosperity and not corruption which is a major ailment that plagues the continent. As in the Globacom advert, I am filled with optimism knowing that my dream of a smart city is a work-in-progress. It’s coming, hurry up Africa!
Word count: 928
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