A changing world means urban areas must be self-reliant. Smart cities; once a flamboyant phrase for a Jetsons-style future, could be a reality in most parts of Southern Africa, predominantly South Africa and Zimbabwe.
With African governments failing to take action on climate change and environmental issues, cities, through initiatives such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group which connects 90 of the world’s greatest cities, representing 500 plus million people and one quarter of the global economy, are seeding the way.
The steering Committee of C40 mayors provides strategic direction and governance. Current committee members include, Amman, Boston, Copenhagen, Durban, Hong Kong, Jakarta, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Milan, Paris, Seoul and Tokyo.
C40 is also positioning cities as a leading force for climate action around the world, defining and amplifying their call to national governments for greater support and autonomy in creating a sustainable future.
“Possibilities of smart cities are very high for the City of Bulawayo because one of our core values as a city is environmental friendliness and to this end we’ve actually issued expressions of interest, looking at how we can use green energy that is solar and also renewable energy.
“We’re also happy that ongoing projects like the Egodini project have also taken into consideration the use of solar to reduce the usage of electricity. We’re also looking at issues of climate change and how we’re going to re-organise the city given these on-coming developments,” said Mrs Nesisa Mpofu, Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer.
Bulawayo is embarking on a $60 million Basch Street Terminal upgrade project aimed at transforming the city, creating wealth for locals. The project is the largest to be undertaken in the city since the country attained independence in 1980.
In 2015, the BCC awarded South African civil engineering firm, Terracotta, a contract to develop a transport hub and shopping mall at Egodini bus terminus. The project is on a build, operate and transfer basis and will come at no cost to the council. Bulawayo is expected to ultimately own it, once Terracotta has recouped its investment.
Early this month, Bulawayo town clerk Mr Christopher Dube revealed that the BCC had set aside $300 000 as compensation for property owners whose properties will be affected by the Egodini development.
The project will affect about 1 100 informal traders and 2 000 public transport operators operating in the area. According to the BCC, the refurbishment will see the terminus handling at least three million travellers each month and the site will include a transport hub located on the Basch Street ground level, retail sections and visitor parking bays.
Rich countries use underground trains. South Africa, learning from Brazil, rolled out a rapid bus system in its major cities. This created dedicated lanes for buses, which can move more people around quicker.
The system is linked to a complete system of public transport, where people leave home on a bicycle, pedal along a safe cycling lane, get to the bus or train and then arrive on the other side before they walk the last bit to work.
Terracotta Trading Private Limited director and Egodini Mall developer, Mr Thulani Moyo, said the concept of smart cities is becoming a reality in sub-Saharan Africa’s development agenda and urged other countries to adopt such development projects.
“For having a smarter city, African countries have to go there and do it. You don’t have a choice. It’s not about the possibility of it, you have to do it, because of sustainability and self-reliance issues,” said Mr Moyo.
According to the Bulawayo City Council, the Egodini re-development site was handed over to the developer, Terracotta Trading Private Limited (TTPL) on January 25, 2018, and it is expected that on March 1, 2018, TTPL will move on site. Council will soon be busy relocating informal traders and transport operators from the site.
The Egodini site is meant to have been cleared by the end of February, to allow work to start in March, where demolitions and the clearing of the site is going to take place, to prepare for the construction of the first phase to begin.
“What you must recognise is on that site at any point in time, you’ve got a lot of informal traders, taxi drivers, commuters and there would be people who’ll be working at the centres, in the shops. We got a company that has indicated that they’re going to come and put solar panels, just to help us and our buildings to be more energy efficient. This will also help in terms of electricity charges to our tenants and would be slightly cheaper which makes us more competitive,” said Mr Moyo.
One of the major challenges for the City of Bulawayo is waste management and the city is running out of space to dispose of waste. This is a common problem for other cities in the world. In Delhi, people live against rubbish dumps.
This is because everything comes into cities in packaging. These dumps increase the potential for disease and contain heavy metals. They are also a visual representation of how inefficient society is, where food is thrown away.
“We’re looking at ways of assisting, like anywhere you go to, airports or public transport ranks in the world; you get there and get there’s 30 minutes free Wi-Fi and all those different type of things. We’re looking at incorporating all those things that make sure that the people of Bulawayo can be part of the global world and enjoy things that other people in the world enjoy,” said Mr Moyo.