Tag Archives: Smart city Africa

Zimbabwe’s localised, restructured economy of the 2010s: Harare/Bulawayo vs Zimbabwean secondary cities

Smaller cities across Africa are projected to double/triple in population over the next 15-25 years.

Ways to classify Zimbabwean urban areas

Given the structural adjustment policies, decline in off-farm opportunities and remittance flows, access to productive land is a major factor in ensuring balanced growth and effective service delivery in Zimbabwe’s 7-tier hierarchy of urban areas:

consolidated villages,

business centers,

rural service centers,

district service centers,

growth points,

towns

and cities.

While in the drier parts of Zimbabwe, many people have taken to mining/mineral extraction as a source of livelihoods. Several million of them. On a regular basis.

As a result, over 70% of small-scale miners have some level of mercury poisoning.

In the colonial era, towns grew where there was economic activity.

Apart from the likes of Harare and Bulawayo, there were:

Mining towns: Zvishavane, Mashava, Hwange, Shurugwi, Kadoma and Kwekwe

Estate towns: Chiredzi and Triangle

White farming towns: Chinoyi, Bindura or West Nicholson

Consider setting up your second home in a smaller town of Zimbabwe

Land reform in Zimbabwe localised the economy. Increasingly, benefits are generated in towns like Mvurwi — home to 7,500 — in Mashonaland Central. Whereas Zimbabwean megalopolises — like the capital city Harare — suffer from unregulated construction, overpopulation, power and water cuts, underemployment and strained sanitation and waste management systems.

As of October 2016, some 1,100 tonnes of garbage were generated daily in Harare.  Twice as much as that found in Johannesburg. This is partly due to slack in managing the packaging of food stuffs. Over 70 % of  domestic waste in Harare is biodegradable. But who will lead the way in the hectic city of over 1,600,000 people.

Can you keep it clean with just two automated sweepers operated by the city council?

Bulawayo is a different story. But similar in many ways.

Now let’s look at what is happening outside Zimbabwe’s mega cities.

Growth point Maphisa in Matobo district, Matabeleland South had 6 supermarkets as of October 2016 (when before 2000 there were none), 8 butcheries (from 4), 5 hardware stores (from 1) and over 30 kombi operators.

The occupied high-density stands have shot up from 223 to 1,118, while the medium-density ones have increased from 121 to 498.

Of course you can say that Harare, Masvingo and Bulawayo have all of that and much more. But the question here is comparative growth potential and harmonizing the community. In the restructured, unequally distributed economy that Zimbabwe is, managing smaller communities with their localized economies is potentially more doable than the bigger, more diverse ones.

And in terms of quality of living — with fast (even though still relatively expensive) internet, plus off-grid power from renewables like solar — we vote for smaller towns as the engines of growth in Zimbabwe.

This is what makes Zimbabwe’s provincial urban areas tick

In Chatsworth, a small town between Masvingo and Gutu-Mpandawanda, high-density stands cost USD900, medium-density USD1,400 and low-density USD4,000.

To operate a butchery and food outlet another businessman pays monthly rent of USD350. Buying two-three beasts per week, he pays USD400 – USD500 per each  and sells meat to customers at USD5 per kg.

Yet another local entrepreneur opened a large supermarket in 2012 that gets up to 200 customers cross its doors every day. She employs 34 people.

Earned in a day in Zimbabwe’s secondary towns 

I used proceeds from the hardware store to educate my children and to build my house. I built another house at my parents’ home nearby, — a businesswoman from Gutu.

Two hardware shops generate about USD300 per day each selling ploughs, harrows, cultivators as well as building materials to residents developing their stands in Chatsworth.

A cattle owner in Maphisa gets around USD800 per beast in Bulawayo. And USD50 per goat.

A brick loader in Mvurwi can get USD8. A transporter can get USD80 after accounting for fuels. Open market vendors in Chatsworth, a growth point of over 1,000 residents (and one hair salon) in Gutu district, Masvingo province, generate about USD10.

Resettled farmers start to compete with the vendors for customers: selling door to door to residents and schools.

Value supply chain in/between Zimbabwe’s secondary cities

Agro-vendors in Chatsworth — mostly women without land — have amplified the economic effect. Making use of the good transport connection to Masvingo they have made significant profits, and are the new landlords in the town: now investing intensively in new building projects.

Open market vendor in Maphisa pays USD10 for the bus to and from Bulawayo, sometimes venturing into the City of Kings three times a week.

Whereas to ship cattle from Maphisa to Bulawayo, private transporters charge USD40 per animal.

About 90% of houses built in Mvurwi used common farm bricks. Bricks sell at USD30 per thousand plus add USD15 to transport them.

A three-tonne truck owner each quarter has to pay USD87 for the truck license.

Kombis plying the Chatsworth – Mpandawana route pay USD15-20 every day at the police road blocks for operating illegally. Gutu Council requires them to enter the Mupandawana Terminus to offload passengers. They pay USD2 for each entry.

I am forced to pick and offload customers door to door or at farm gate [using dirt roads] to remain popular and sustain business.

“It is expensive for people without own transport to buy building materials from Masvingo town and load it on the train [the train to Masvingo costs USD1] or public transport. Expenses of buying from afar forces them to buy from us,” shares a Chatsworth salesman.

Special thanks to Ian Scoones and his https://zimbabweland.wordpress.com/ blog

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Here is why you aren’t yet invested in rural Zimbabwe’s solar. And why you need to start investing

As of September 2016, some 23 independent energy producers were reported to have license in Zimbabwe, a country with a national electrification rate of 40%.

Rural electrification hovers at around 21%.

Private investors are mostly not convinced that they can make a profit in the rural market where the buying power is small and credits are meager.

The Southern African nation’s grid is mostly dependent on power imported from South Africa. Which is reportedly cheaper than what is generated locally. Population growth and energy demand meet years of under-investment in infrastructure.

Solar products are duty-free. But Zimbabwean government didn’t think of offering such fiscal incentives as feed-in tariffs, tax rebates and renewable energy certificates.

Without clear tariff structures for grid-connected green projects conflict is likely between private players and the Zimbabwe Energy Supply Authority (ZESA), which owns the grid

So, perfect storm?

But where the wind is strong, you can put a wind mast. Or a solar panel.

In Tanzania civil society has taken a more practical
approach as the government lacks resources to invest in
large energy infrastructure in rural areas.  Solar Sister entrepreneurs, local women from last-mile communities, invest in a stock of various solar and cooking products, that they then sell for a profit to their peers.

Only 36% of Tanzanians have access to electricity (21% in rural areas, similar to Zimbabwe).

Further north,  Kenyan women — just like Zimbabwean ones — have problems in accessing financial support from micro-finance and banking organisations to create last mile energy solutions.  Local banks have high interest loans: 15% to 25%. In 2016 civil society in the Eastern African nation launched a new project to support groups of female energy entrepreneurs to create ‘Village Savings and Loan Associations’, based on a traditional form of Kenyan village banking.

The Kenyan government’s VAT exemption applies to all solar PV equipment, including solar panels, batteries and controllers. Unlike Zimbabwe, Kenya has been offering a feed-in tariff scheme since 2012.

On average, in a day, a sq m of solar panel in Africa can generate 4 to 6 kW units of electricity — enough to power 400 to 600 10-watt light bulbs for one hour.

The fact that rural African consumers live far apart — plus their low buying power — makes the notion of setting up after-sales service centers in the distribution regions unviable.

Urban Africa may be different. Although we are far from critical mass there.  Strathmore University in Nairobi became the first zero-carbon footprint university in Africa when they installed a 600 kW roof-mounted solar system.

Watch this video to hear more from solar entrepreneurs that made it in rural and per-urban Zimbabwe, as they employed local youths.

This is how undeveloped land, buildings shape smart city development in Africa

Most of the development land in cities throughout the world is controlled by the state. States often work in silos and it is often up to communities and real estate professionals to convince the regulators to release that land.

But in the world where real estate is often treated as a commodity, urban communities and the few welfare states that Africa has should get creative and convince property investors that buildings create a sense of place, not just monetary dividends.

So it’s most of the times down to solid multi-actor partnerships if smart cities were to develop across Africa. And don’t forget about the farmers as they lose agricultural land due to urban growth but may stand to earn a lot more if urbanization is done right.

Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent with the surface of 30.2 million sq km (20.4% of the total global land area).

Sub-Saharan Africa has a slum population of 199.5 million

When it comes to land use in emerging urban environments, Africa requires around 4 million housing units per year, with over 60% of the demand required to accommodate urban residents. Rwanda’ s demand for housing (especially affordable) is estimated to be at least 560,000 units by 2020. In Nigeria it’s 17 million by the same year. Reputed for being the best run local authority in Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, home to some 650,000 people in the south of that country, now has 100,000 residents on the waiting list for housing stands.

Mauritius, the most densely populated country on the continent with 639 people per sq km should definitely be mindful of its land policies and building codes. But how innovative should city authorities and local communities be in the island nation compared to — let’s say — Namibia, the least densely populated one, with three people per sq km? Mauritius could certainly learn from Singapore whose city planners are not only aware of the Asian country’s limitations — especially space — but also faced a housing crisis after the city-state’s independence in 1965.

It is generally believed that going more vertical in densifying urban environments is closer to getting your city to become resilient and sustainable. Urban planners are aware of the fact that local communities do not react similarly to urban high-rise. In Asia high-rise is regarded as a premium category but in places like Europe it is treated  as low quality housing.

Affordable housing and role of residents’ aspirations in urban design

Developers believe they can get 20%+ returns on housing projects in Africa 

At the same time they cite high borrowing costs for property developers as well as low levels of infrastructure development within city suburbs as challenges in rolling out more affordable housing units.

Rwanda Housing Authority supports introduction of Real Estates Investment Trusts (REITs) and urges real estate developers to raise funds on the stock market.

Kigali could face a housing deficit of 344,000 homes in 2020. 31,000 housing units need to be built annually, with only 800-1,000 hitting the market in the capital of Rwanda. But most of them are not affordable housing.

The government in Rwanda has set up a fund where mortgage rates will be lower than those of banks: 10 %. Rwandan banks charge 16-18 % interest rate, while in Kenya the interest on mortgages is about 27 %. Some houses  in Rwandan cities now cost between Rwf10 million and Rwf20 million (starting at ca USD13,000). Rwandans earning Rwf100,000 or Rwf300,000 monthly can hardly afford even that.

Use this Mortgage and Housing Affordability Calculator availed in March 2016 by Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa and see what it would cost to service a mortgage loan for a US$10,000 house in each African country.

When policy and regulation become counter-productive

Policy inconsistency is often a challenge on African projects. Take a case of a Saudi client that commissioned Singapore’s Surbana to plan a 640 ha site in Algeria. Though the financing and plans were in place, the project never got off the ground. The Algerian government rescinded the land titles for the site.

Surbana has created master plans for the city of Kigali, Rwanda and redevelopment master plans for three zones in the Angolan capital Luanda.

Another barrier to investment in urban housing markets is lack of access to reliable, prompt and local market information.

Despite efforts to create GIS maps and e-approval systems for development permits in some African countries, real estate markets in others are still considered to be opaque. “The data sharing culture with the shared goal of transparency and inclusive growth is still at odds with many stakeholders.”

Content on sites like Estateintel.com in Nigeria — created by real estate professionals — is a way to bring in more transparency into the real estate and land markets in Africa.

Real estate transparency in Sub-Saharan Africa
Real estate transparency in Sub-Saharan Africa

Land markets

A large percentage of land in urban environments is used for roads and utilities. As populations densify more of the utilities go underground. And more public spaces take their place above the ground.With driverless cars, parking lots and garages will not be as necessary as such vehicles will not need to be waiting for you in the CBD. As the garages underneath buildings get removed, the front entrance to the building gets rid of the elevator that was put their initially to get you to the parking garage. At this stage, the access to the front door needs to be changed since all the cars delivering the employees in the morning queue up in front of the building.

Another feature of smart cities — delivery drones — shape the conversation about the location of industrial warehouses in African cities.

However technology is often taking backstage in the discussions of land rights.
Take for example Brazil:

Following the adoption of the 1988 Constitution, which included a chapteron urban policy, a ground-breaking law called the Statute of the City was introduced in 2001 to promote equity and access to urban land. It gave municipalities various instruments to institutionalize the right to the city.

First, it sought to ensure that city management was more democratic by making land use planning mandatory throughout each city and subjecting development decisions to social control and participation (previously planning was essentially an elitist activity and only selected parts of each city were subject to investment and service delivery by the municipalities).

Second, it sought to ensure that the social function of urban land and buildings was put before their commercial value by removing part of the land from the market (previously public authorities had very little scope to intervene in the property sector through planning and urban management initiatives because of the long-held tradition of private property rights).

Across Africa, a clash between statutory and customary land laws often undermines property market development and makes getting legal title a challenge.

USD800-1,000 per hectare in DR Congo can go all the way up to the exorbitant USD100,000 per hectare in well-serviced residential areas of Kinshasa.

For urban planning to be seen as a collaborative process of shared decision-making (as opposed to a top-down, technocratic activity undertaken by government experts, private developers or commercial investors) African societies have a lot of e-governance solutions available. And ‘right to the city’ policies like the ones adopted in Brazil.

One just has to pick and adopt them back at home.

Watch smaller smart cities as they emerge in Africa

this survey by Andy Kozlov was first published on Smart City Africa site

“Creating decentralized strategies”

Some 75 % of global population live in urban settlements of fewer than 500,000 people. The figure will only get higher with time. Smaller cities, especially across Africa, are projected to double/triple in population over the next 15-25 years. Secondary cities vary considerably in size. In China, some have populations of over five million, while in Ethiopia they have fewer than 200,000.

“Job Opportunities”

Creating decentralized strategies to provide basic services to smaller “intermediate” cities and towns can facilitate the transition between rural and non-rural activities and take pressure off Africa’s megacities.

 

“Taking pressure off Africa’s megacities”

“This is where most investment and urban planning need to take place: equipping [Intermediate cities] with proper infrastructure, helping deliver basic services and enabling them for the generation of job opportunities,” argues Edgar Pieterse of the African Centre for Cities.
In West Africa, Ghana works to relieve pressure on Accra and Kumasi by building the capacity of local government, training planners and local councillors in smaller cities. On the other side of the continent, in Uganda, a partnership between Belgium-based Cities Alliance and the British Department for International Development focuses on 14 secondary cities, to boost the long-term planning capacities of local governments and assit slum dwellers.

“Rolling out broadband”

“In most African cities, planning is done short term, in five-year or maybe ten-year plans. It’s important for these cities to increase their planning horizons to 30 years,” explains Samuel Mabala of Cities Alliance.

Connect smaller cities to the world outside the national borders

Smart city analysts from across the Atlantic argue that broadband has become the great economic leveler of our time. Any small place that is home to an industrial or post-industrial economy, that is “robustly connected” can be a global competitor.

“Cities where  we live for the sake of the place”

If small cities in the middle of nowhere become hotbeds of company formation in the United States, can’t their African peers follow, follow fast? How significant is the number of places in Africa where people want to live for the sake of the place, not just a paycheck?

Create positive change by tapping into the land market

One thing is certain: land in Mohammedia, a port city on the west coast of Morocco between Casablanca and Rabat, can be cheaper for its population of 188,619 than in Nairobi, Kenya, home to some 3 million people. And all these African cities mentioned above have one enormous advantage over tech hubs like Silicon Valley, Austin, Boston or New York.  Land is cheap.
Mohammedia, a port city on the west coast of Morocco between Casablanca and Rabat
Mohammedia, a port city on the west coast of Morocco between Casablanca and Rabat
As James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, puts it “‘Every calculation – the cash flow you must maintain, the life balance you can work toward – is different when a nice family house costs a few hundred thousand dollars rather than a few million.” Again, in smaller African cities that family house can cost you well south of USD100,000.

“Cheaper rental prices, and a higher growth potential”

Take Koforidua, Eastern Region in south Ghana (some 130,000 people). An almost completed two-bedroom house with double garage and a large plot surrounding it trades in Koforidua for GH₵ 249,600 (Fixed USD price: $ 64,000).

 

By investing in smaller cities, real estate developers and industry professionals benefit from lower operating costs, greater space and scenery for construction, lower costs for resources and building materials. While bigger economic capitals have the advantage over smaller, lesser known cities — due to greater recognition around the world — cheaper rental prices, less competition, and a higher growth potential is enabling smaller emerging cities in Africa to rise to the challenge.

Coupled with reliable broadband and state-of-the-art medical services, smaller African cities — oftentimes a step away from breathtaking natural beauty — are to become your idea of a city of the 21st century.
University of Kikwit in DRC. Intermediary city of Kikwit  is home to some 400,000 people in the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Source: lighteningkongo.wordpress.com
University of Kikwit in DRC. Intermediary city of Kikwit is home to some 400,000 people in the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Source: lighteningkongo.wordpress.com

Get smart about attracting investors

The picture is not without pitfalls of course. Laura Mann, International Development department at London School of Economics (LSE), observes that on the national level African policy-makers should think much more strategically about how African nations can capture value within their economies through the proliferation of information technologies and the deepening of the digital economy.

“National policies that fund local R&D and training programmes”

Recent reports by institutions like UNECA, UNCTAD and UNIDO suggest that African governments need to be extremely strategic in their dealings with foreign companies; to make sure those investments and activities contribute to raising the skill level in African countries, providing outsourcing and procurement opportunities for local businesses and paying taxes that can fund local R&D and training programmes.

But it is a two-way road. National government in Kenya tried to promote Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) by subsidising the cost of bandwidth to all BPO companies that wanted to try to engage in the sector. Some unskilled local companies received that support, and harmed the overall reputation of Kenyan firms in the eyes of international clients.

“Making African economies more predictable”

As more African governments shift to e-governance and more city dwellers use mobiles, internet connections and smartcards, massive amounts of transactional data is generated. This makes African economies more predictable, smaller cities in Africa more visible to foreign investors. Back to LSE wisdom on smart cities in Africa:

 

Behind the widely circulated images of slum dwellers using mobile technologies to improve daily lives, the dominance of large ICT companies, a splintered urban landscape, land dispossession and the securitisation of urban space reveal a more complicated potential smart urban future.

Smaller African cities will have to be smart about opening markets and opportunities, a policy that should primarily contribute to development of their own communities — rather than large corporations or the local elites.

La Cite du Fleuve, in DR Congo is creating a series of overlapping sources of tension in Kinshasa including struggles around land ownership and issues of dispossession that begin to lay bare the rhetoric of smart urban developments across Africa.

There are two core problems with housing urban populations in smaller cities as they grow: land is not made available for new settlements and people aren’t able to afford the type of houses that are built.

Empower your city residents

Beyond the narrative that tends to put smart city Africa into the realm of technology, smaller African cities should guard against becoming exclusive enclaves or archipelagos of high technology. Smart African communities should prioritize people and avoid withdrawing from the wider city.

“Getting beyong exclusive enclaves and archipelagos of high technology”

Function and role – as opposed to population size – are now defining an intermediary city’s status within the global network of cities. In this context, talent attraction and retention become factors that differentiate Gondar, a secondary city of 358,257 in the north of Ethiopia from Kikwit  (home to some 400,000 people)  in the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
 Gondar, a secondary city of 358,257 in the north of Ethiopia
Gondar, a secondary city of 358,257 in the north of Ethiopia
Research and technology development are particularly important assets that help to differentiate city economies from each other, resulting in an emphasis on industrial specialization and the role of universities.

 

Smart specialization strategies promoted by the European Union are designed to encourage each region to identify transformation priorities that reflect and amplify existing local structures and competencies, and thus produce original and unique competitive advantages.