African Cities: Is innovation in their future?

Africa 100 Years

Africa is ‘different’. Featuring innovation cities in Africa.

We have done a number of interviews for African media sources. From the recent Afribiz article:

As of 2010, Africa had 47 cities with more than a million inhabitants, accounting for 31.6% of total urban population in Africa according to the UN report.  The three largest cities on the continent in 2010 were Cairo (about 11 million), Lagos (10.5 million), and Kinshasa (8.7 million).

Christopher Hire, Executive Director of Innovation at 2ThinkNow in Australia, says innovation is key to making cities what we want them to be socially and economically. Hire and his team have developed the Innovation Cities Program and Index. On the Innovations Cities Emerging Index, there are seven African cities – Cape Town, Casablanca, Johannesburg, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, and Port Louis – listed out of sixteen cities.

> Original article by Lauri Elliott

Africa’s is ‘different’ in terms of time..

Literature often refers to ‘Africa time’, but this also applies to thinking on the continent. From the article:

The key issues or trends that cities need to address successfully (according to 2thinknow) over the next 15 to 80 years are equity, economics, and the environment.

80 years refers to an Africa context in the long term. More is possible in the 15 year time frame in African context.

The objective of Innovation Cities (In an African context) is to improve “social and economic performance of (existing) cities over a period of approximately 15 years accounting for these trends,“ indicates Hire.

This requires more expansion for clarity in a specific context of Africa cities.

African initiatives outside the far North need to consider what can be done over a decade, as well as short-term wins over a year or two. It’s important though that in quickly building hospitals, roads, or infrastructure, Africa doesn’t neglect the maintenance of the 15-30 years, which is the broader point.

So our 2thinknow analysis of African opportunity is more nuanced than the brevity of the article implies.

Africa is very regional, with numerous borders as Chris Patten commented, decided by past diplomats, not by practicality. South, North and Middle are different, and some geo-political analysis would relate to water, resources and land-locked status.

Time frames vary by region, as well as cities. That is the value of the 2thinknow approach and the business opportunity from city benchmarking data on African cities.

2thinknow can assist customers to identify the opportunities and the time frames, that can be implemented on a city / population centre basis. These can vary from short (months) to long-term (years). Opportunities that are overlooked.

Africa is not the West, which the West forgets.

By contrast, more homogeneous Western societies (and indeed capitalist Asia) are moving so fast that each 15 years may take in two cycles of change and growth. Think PC, networks, internet  and mobile internet as innovation technology cycle leaders. But as numerous economists (and the World Bank) have argued, there are numerous pre-existing structures which make this short term results possible. Seoul and Tokyo are a great example of fast time frames, as is Hong Kong.

Much western aid to Africa often ignores the medium term, for the quick short-term infrastructure build.

The 2011 Innovation Cities Emerging Index and Africa.

2thinknow will release the Innovation Cities Index 2011, shortly. This will include more African innovation cities, across North and Durban in the South, is now added to Capetown and Johannesburg.

With more press coverage than ever, and the rise of the innovation economy, it is time for a large explosion of civic innovation.

Hopefully the Index will inspire African cities to “lift their game” with innovation. In the 2thinknow view, the African solution to urban innovation, must in part, come from Africa, not dusty binders on dusty shelves.

Africa among global Innovation Cities.

The Innovation Cities Index 2011 (Global, and 4 regions including Emerging) is undergoing review, and will be published shortly. This is the 5th year of the 2thinknow Index, which attracts unique visitors from 1000s of cities on release, and each year. Previous media coverage raising awareness of innovation, has appeared under Reuters, Boston Globe, NY Times (Opinion), Fox Business, ABC (Australia), and a variety of business and local news including local newspaper dailies.

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