The concept of Smart Cities will play a critical role in driving Africa’s urban revolution and urbanisation, President Paul Kagame has said.
Kagame was speaking in Doha, Qatar at the Smart City Expo organised to showcase the latest smart technologies and innovations advancing the urban future.
Kagame said that, with the African continent undergoing urbanisation, smart cities technologies can play a definitive role in developing cities that have a higher level of productivity.
“Africa is fortunate to be undergoing its urban revolution at this particular time, when smart cities technologies are evolving and maturing,” Kagame said.
The President said that, with urbanisation key to shaping investment, growth and human development, African countries cannot afford to leave its trends to chance hence adopting technologies.
“This wave of urbanisation is also occurring elsewhere in Africa. It represents a historic window of opportunity for investment, growth and human development. It also means that we have the opportunity to plan now and do things right. We cannot afford to leave urbanization to chance or go back and fix mistakes later, after costs and damages have already been incurred. This is where technology has a huge role to play,” Kagame said.
The rate of urbanisation has been found to have a direct impact on societies’ development.
Africa’s low rate of urbanisation has often been cited as among the reasons for the low levels of development.
“Urbanisation creates the conditions for more complex economies, powered by innovation and services. In short, urbanisation is a key step in any society’s pathway to prosperity. It is, therefore, no accident that Africa still has some of the world’s lowest rates of urbanisation,”
“This is among the factors, that have kept Africa from advancing as quickly as it should have, given our inherent advantages. However, the human geography of Africa is in a state of rapid change. The rate of growth of Africa’s cities is on average the highest in the world,” Kagame said.
Rwanda’s urbanisation rate is around 6 per cent a year, compared to the global average of around 2 per cent.
Kagame, however, said that for the technology and smart cities to have an impact on urbanisation and development, there has to be a deliberate effort to improve people’s welfare.
“Smart cities are about people not computers. The mission is not to invest in technology for its own sake, but to do so strategically, to make life measurably better for the people who live in our cities,” he said.
The changes and transformation are dependent on data collected from citizens hence the need to establish trust for stakeholders to remain open to the benefits of the approach.
“If we want our citizens and customers to remain open to the benefits of high-tech, cities, we need to be responsible with their data at every stage, from collection, to storage and usage. The public and private sectors must work closely together to foster the necessary environment of trust for smart cities to flourish,” he said.
Among ways Rwanda is embracing smart cities include; Wi-Fi in public transportation, cashless payment in public transport as well as availing essential public services, through the e-government platform called Irembo.
“Rwandans are also using mobile money applications to pay for water and electricity, as well as their taxes. Digital payment not only makes those services more accessible to consumers, it also reduces vectors for corruption,” the President said.
Kagame also welcomed the growing partnership efforts with the Middle Eastern Nation which will also see Rwanda host the annual Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award in December.