May 19, 2020

Smart Cities in Africa? It’s not just about ICT

Smart cities
Eckart Zollner
6 min
Smart Cities in Africa? It’s not just about ICT

As mass urbanisation continues across Africa, putting in place the fundamental infrastructure needed to build smart cities has never been more important. Smart cities are emerging in Zambia, Ghana, Mauritius and Kenya. For all of them, the first hurdle is installing the ICT infrastructure, but the capabilities required to kick-start smart city services and efficiencies reach beyond ICT.

Smart cities don’t just deliver cost savings and efficiencies; creating a sustainable enabling environment can impact economic potential and growth. In Africa, a dearth of infrastructure provides a greenfield opportunity to get it right first time. However, strategic planning will be key to success.

ICT may be the core upon which smart cities are built, but getting buy-in from stakeholders to deliver smart services means building relationships-  putting in place processes and integrating systems and implementing the right controls, security and management systems.

This requires an ICT partner with more than just technology skills. A broad knowledge and experience of industry sectors (from utilities to public sector service delivery, manufacturing value chains, industrial operations and corporate processes) will be essential to co-ordinate, synchronise and integrate systems and technologies as they converge within a single intelligent city hub.

UN studies and other research offer alarming predictions: by 2035, the majority of Africa’s people (over 50%) will be urbanised, more than doubling current urban populations in some countries. By 2030, six of the world’s 41 megacities will be in Africa. By 2050, Africa’s slum population will have tripled. Governments will be highly pressured to keep pace with urban development.

Who drives smart city development?

At present, smart city and smart community developments are being driven by developers and through public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Governments recognise the need for smart city development and are building it into development policies. However, they face a number of challenges:

  • They must upgrade existing legacy systems to function in a smart city environment
  • Smart city infrastructure is costly to implement
  • Service delivery and revenue collection systems must be developed
  • Services need to be rolled out tactically and in a phased manner to secure a return on investment and ongoing revenues to ensure the expansion and sustainability of services

In terms of minimising cost, new greenfield developments remain optimal, with fibre being put into the ground alongside civil infrastructure (water, sewerage pipes, etc.). This is also optimal in terms of determining the distribution of infrastructure for mobile and Wi-Fi providers. Cost can nonetheless stymie progress, which is where PPPs are useful.

Developers are more commercially-minded than governments and are able to target high-income customers, combining infrastructure development with security to secure revenues. This often results in exclusive gated communities. However, in PPP arrangements, developers are extending these benefits in a phased manner with support from government to other segments of the community.

Key elements of smart city success?

The underlying ICT infrastructure is a key element of smart city success. Open access networks will be essential in the long term. Rather than tight network control by individual infrastructure owners, or the complexity that results when many providers attempt to manage their own physical networks and service delivery, an open access network is open to any ISP or service provider. Centrally managed, open access networks facilitate ease of connection to the network, improved controls and high-quality services. And a big plus: open access networks maximise use of the network, maximising revenues and minimising expenditure.

Fully managed data centres will be important. From the infrastructure layer upward, smart city services are usually provided independently. These services include utilities, security, Internet of Things or machine-to-machine services, and analytics. In bigger and more developed countries, multiple datacentres will facilitate interconnects between providers at local and international levels. However, at every level, because everything is powered by technology and connectivity, data centre control must be provided. How these technologies are deployed and aligned to customer needs will determine their success, however.

For example, utilities are already under pressure to deliver. However, with no smart meters rolled out, they are finding it hard to manage demand, integrate and manage clean energy sources (e.g., PV and wind energy), and deliver services. As they move toward upgrading their systems, utilities need to identify high usage clients and align their services to meet these customers’ needs first. This will assist them to deliver lean, optimal and efficient services, which can be integrated with other services as intelligent smart city capabilities expand.

The ICT provider will play a broader role, implementing ICT infrastructure but also co-ordinating between service providers. By ensuring services run on an integrated platform and providing suitable analytics or user apps, or access to these apps on hosted platforms, smart services become available. For example, by integrating electricity, water, sewage and waste collection on a single hosted platform, city dwellers can gain a smart view of service use and rates and taxes. Similarly, with traffic and security data (and possibly IoT and big data) on a single platform, users can identify congestion and optimise their travel schedules.

Implement, manage, orchestrate

As infrastructure is rolled out, citizens connect and services go live, cities will become smarter. To put the fundamentals in place, smart governments and developers will choose partners that have strong technical and technology expertise but also broader integration, orchestration, strategic and management capabilities.

Look for partners that:

  • Have broad industry experience, with an understanding the operations and priorities of different sectors and stakeholders
  • Can create strong collaborative relationships across and between sectors
  • Can do strategic planning and service rollouts based on customer needs and stakeholder readiness
  • Can offer data centre, interconnect and international connectivity
  • Can facilitate open access models, providing network control, management and maintenance
  • Offer smart city stakeholders integrated, shared and hosted platforms to flight their services
  • Have the data and analytics capabilities to enable multi-party services
  • Can facilitate service provision and revenue collection

About the Jasco Group

Jasco delivers end-to-end best-of-breed solutions across the entire ICT value chain. Our services include solution design, business consulting, project management and logistics to manage the supply, installation and commissioning of solutions; and professional services to provide integration and customisation of solutions; managed services, support and maintenance.

Jasco’s operating divisions, namely Intelligent Technologies, Enterprise, Carriers and Electrical Manufacturers deliver a range of solutions and services. Intelligent Technologies delivers broadcast, power, data centres and Property Technology Management (PTM) solutions as well as Energy Optimisation and Co-location services, a carrier-neutral co-location telecommunications hub where the network infrastructure serves multiple service providers. The Carrier business provides solutions and components for access and transmission networks as well as hi-sites. The Enterprise business is a specialist in multiple disciplines across numerous solutions, including business communications, contact centres, IT Infrastructure, surveillance and access control, as well as, fire detection and prevention solutions to name but a few.   Electrical Manufacturers delivers contract manufacturing of white goods. 

The Jasco Group has a national footprint with offices in Gauteng, Western Cape, Free State, Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal. Other than South Africa, the organisation features an office in Kenya to service the East Africa region and an office in Dubai to service the Middle East Northern Africa (MENA) region.  It also trades in many sub-Saharan African countries, with a special focus on the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Eckart Zollner, Group Business Development, Jasco

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Jun 11, 2021

G7 Summit guide: What it is and what leaders hope to achieve

3 min
Business Chief delves into what the G7 is and represents and what its 2021 summit hopes to achieve, in terms of sustainability and global trade

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, you’ll have seen the term ‘G7’ plastered all over the Internet this week. We’re going to give you the skinny on exactly what the G7 is and what its purpose on this planet is ─ and whether it’s a good or a bad collaboration. 


Who are the G7?

The Group of Seven, or ‘G7’, may sound like a collective of pirate lords from a certain Disney smash-hit, but in reality, it’s a group of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies ─ the powerhouses of the world, if you like. 

The merry band comprises:

  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • The United Kingdom
  • The United States

Historically, Russia was a member of the then-called ‘G8’ but found itself excluded after their ever-so-slightly illegal takeover of Crimea back in 2014.


Since 1977, the European Union has also been involved in some capacity with the G7 Summit. The Union is not recognised as an official member, but gradually, as with all Europe-linked affairs, the Union has integrated itself into the conversation and is now included in all political discussions on the annual summit agenda. 


When was the ‘G’ formed?

Back in 1975, when the world was reeling from its very first oil shock and the subsequent financial fallout that came with it, the heads of state and government from six of the leading industrial countries had a face-to-face meeting at the Chateau de Rambouillet to discuss the global economy, its trajectory, and what they could do to address the economic turmoil that reared its ugly head throughout the 70s. 


Why does the G7 exist?

At this very first summit ─ the ‘G6’ summit ─, the leaders adopted a 15-point communiqué, the Declaration of Rambouillet, and agreed to continuously meet once a year moving forward to address the problems of the day, with a rotating Presidency. One year later, Canada was welcomed into the fold, and the ‘G6’ became seven and has remained so ever since ─ Russia’s inclusion and exclusion not counted. 


The group, as previously mentioned, was born in the looming shadow of a financial crisis, but its purpose is more significant than just economics. When leaders from the group meet, they discuss and exchange ideas on a broad range of issues, including injustice around the world, geopolitical matters, security, and sustainability. 


It’s worth noting that, while the G7 may be made up of mighty nations, the bloc is an informal one. So, although it is considered an important annual event, declarations made during the summit are not legally binding. That said, they are still very influential and worth taking note of because it indicates the ambitions and outlines the initiatives of these particularly prominent leading nations. 


Where is the 2021 G7 summit?

This year, the summit will be held in the United Kingdom deep in the southwest of England, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosting his contemporaries in the quaint Cornish resort of Carbis Bay near St Ives in Cornwall. 

What will be discussed this year? 

After almost two years of remote communication, this will be the first in-person G7 summit since the novel Coronavirus first took hold of the globe, and Britain wants “leaders to seize the opportunity to build back better from coronavirus, uniting to make the future fairer, greener, and more prosperous.”


The three-day summit, running from Friday to Sunday, will see the seven leaders discussing a whole host of shared challenges, ranging from the pandemic and vaccine development and distribution to the ongoing global fight against climate change through the implementation of sustainable norms and values. 


According to the UK government, the attendees will also be taking a look at “ensuring that people everywhere can benefit from open trade, technological change, and scientific discovery.” 


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