UNPACKING THE SMART CITY CONCEPT IN AFRICA

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The smart cities phenomenon is catching up with Africa having globally started less than 10 years ago.There is need to look at the way African cities are taking to the idea, especially ahead of two meetings later this year: the 52nd International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) International Planning Congress scheduled for Durban in September (2016.isocarp.org) and the Smart City Africa Conference in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (December).

The ISOCARP Congress is not directly dealing with the smart cities subject; however, the forthcoming event will feature a discussion titled “Intelligent Cities for People” that will explore issues related to smart cities.
“Perhaps after the Congress we will have more meaningful findings for African cities, as this is one of the goals of the congress”, says Slawomir Ledwon, ISOCARP’s Vice President Congresses and Events.

ISOCARP’s theme this year is “Cities We Have vs. Cities We Need.”
“This theme was conceived as a catalyst to foster trans-disciplinary ways to interpret the past and conceive the future of cities. This requires a reflection on current practices of planning and the making of cities and for the generation of different ways in which the cities we need are created.

“It calls for sharing of knowledge and practice about cities as well as innovative ways in which desirable cities of the future are created. The theme provides an opportunity to work toward collaborative solutions for the challenges faced by the cities we have in order to create the cities we need in future,” says Ledwon.
Major topics to look out for at this year’s event include Transforming Human Settlements; Planning Activism and Social Justic; Envisaging Planning Theory and Practice for the Next Planning Activism and Social Justice, Envisaging Planning Theory and Practice for the Next Decades; Urban Planning and Policy Making in Times of Uncertainty; Fragility and Insecurity; Intelligent Cities for People and Planning for an Interlinked and Integrated Rural-Urban Development.

Transforming Human Settlements focuses on the planning, building, development and management of human settlements. It addresses spatial patterns of social and economic inequality and their potential integration.
Planning Activism and Social Justice will deal with the role of activism within planning process and how it has impacted cities and redefined planning priorities, for better and worse.
Envisaging Planning Theory and Practice for the Next Decades will provide a critique of inherited planning practices and highlights innovation where planning theory and practice is reinvented or recast to create more relevant cities in the developing world.

The theme of Urban Planning and Policy Making in Times of Uncertainty, Fragility and Insecurity will look at how planning as an instrument can help address the challenge of environmental, political and economic uncertainty, as well as be used to dominate and subjugate citizens. This theme elaborates the role of planning in situations of change.

Intelligent Cities for People will tackle the definition of smart cities where technology and access to data can be exploited for an unprecedented awareness and control of our built environment. While technology flourishes, have the human priorities of these cities been appropriately defined?
Planning for an Interlinked and Integrated Rural-Urban Development is a sub-theme exploring the changing conceptualisation of the urban rural divide and the possibility of new forms of urbanity and rural existence. Should or can rural-urban migration be mitigated by intelligent villages and rural development? Must urban development be more shaped by its non-urban context?

These topics will be facilitated by gurus in global city planning and related fields such as Vanessa Watson and Nicholas You. Vanessa Watson is Professor of City Planning in the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics at the University of Cape Town (South Africa). She holds degrees from the Universities of Natal, Cape Town and the Architectural Association of London, and a PhD from the University of Witwatersrand, and is a Fellow of the University of Cape Town.

Nicholas You is a veteran urban specialist and thought leader. Prior to his retirement he was the senior policy and planning advisor to UN-Habitat and the manager of the Habitat II Conference held in Istanbul in 1996.
Working with various partnerships is at the core of ISOCARP, engaging in collaborations and models, which are key to the organisation and its congresses.

ISOCARP has its head office in The Hague, Netherlands, with a worldwide membership of 713 organisations in total. Of the total membership figure, Africa contributes 97 members spread across nineteen countries on the continent.

“I advise that delegates from all over the world and all countries should come to Durban and participate. We are also open to receive bids to host ISOCARP congress in 2018 and beyond,” concluded Ledwon.

This article was written by Martin Chemhere.

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Born in Zimbabwe and living in South Africa, Miriro is a seasoned publishing editor and writer, having worked with leading brands in investment, business leadership and entrepreneurship. Passionate about Africa’s development, Miriro is also a dynamic marketing consultant with 10 years experience working with startups and large multinational corporations. With a heart for travel, Miriro spends her time discovering the nooks of crannies of Africa’s hidden gems, taking the roads less travelled, meeting the beautiful people and enjoying their food and culture. She enjoys tackling complex strategic challenges in the passion-to-entrepreneurship pipeline, particularly focused on the implications of 4th Industrial Revolution and workforce automation on Africa's travel and tourism industry. Miriro is currently the Managing Editor of Nomad Africa magazine.

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