Advice and Opinion PropTech

Are Kenyan smart cities fairy tales or true opportunities?

Dr. Lal Bhatia, Chairman of Hilshaw Group.

The rate of urbanisation has grown tremendously with nearly 66% of the world’s population predicted to be urban by 2050.

Africa’s urban population has been growing at a high rate; from approximately 27% in 1950 to 40% in 2015 – and projected to reach 60% by 2050, according to UN-DESA-2014.

Many Africans have moved to urban centres to enhance productivity and living standards and by 2019, 40.71% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s total population lived in urban areas and cities.  

With this rapid growth, the continent is positioning itself as a hub for smart cities, with ambitious plans like the Konza Technopolis in Kenya, Vision City in Rwanda, and Hope City in Ghana.

Kenya is among the many countries that have welcomed Paris agreement which has paved the way to the establishment of sustainable cities that will provide much-needed impetus to address climate change. The country has approved six standards that will guide the development of eco and social-friendly cities that will use information and communications technology. It has also attracted investors from all over the world who intend to make an impact on the African economy.

Kenya has a few smart cities coming up which include Tatu City, Konza Technopolis, Northlands City and Athi River Smart Green City.

Dr Lal Bhatia, the chairman of Hilshaw Group, says that while smart cities have been more successful in developed economies, developing countries can now enjoy the same positive impact. Hilshaw Group has signed an agreement with Athi River Smart Green City to develop a sustainable smart city in Kenya and they are looking to partner with other property developers.

The Athi River Smart City is one of the projects that the Kenyan government has declared of national strategic important.

He believes that there are many challenges that developing sustainable cities have faced, that it is possible to overcome these challenges and to unlock Africa’s potential and that funds are imperative for any socio-economic infrastructure to be developed, deployed, and managed.

However, the significant other side of the coin for a smart city to become a reality and success is a reliable and secure system working diligently to make the smart city plan work” he says.

The ideal way to roll out a smart city is by phase to phase, ensuring that it does not take twenty to thirty years to complete.

A well-thought-out smart city roadmap is a responsible plan by ensuring that there is no depletion of natural resources or mindless displacement of ethnic & agrarian populations, and the land is ethically acquired.”

Megaprojects like Athi River Smart Green City are only possible as a collaboration of experts, the public and private sectors, and like-minded visionaries. Similarly, evolutionary plans can only be achieved in the presence of teams and partners who themselves have the ability to evolve.”

With Hilshaw Group collaborating with property developers in Africa, smart cities will finally be executed, and they will no longer be marketed fairy tales that never see the light of day.