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African cities bring new hope and new possibilities

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African cities bring new hope and new possibilities
Caspar Herzberg, Schneider Electric MEA President.

A report released by the UN suggests that, by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in smart cities.

By 2030, at least six of the world’s megacities (a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of 10 million people) will be located in Africa.

Committed to connecting people to safe and reliable energy, in all areas of life, and in a smart way, Schneider Electric believes that they have the solution to creating access to electricity while reducing consumption through smart networks.

According to Caspar Herzberg, Schneider Electric MEA President, emerging markets, like those in Africa, have the opportunity to leapfrog the now-redundant technologies used in already developed nations, ultimately realising their potential to create truly smart cities.

“It is easy to assume that countries in Europe, America and Asia are more likely to become smart cities at a quicker rate than in Africa, but this is not necessarily true. What is very encouraging for us, as Schneider Electric, is the fact that the awareness that has been generated for African decision makers and city managers around the concept of smart cities has increased significantly,” he says.

African cities provide such an opportunity, primarily due to the challenges they currently face. A lack of infrastructure in many African cities has made them ideal candidates, where new technology can be introduced and implemented from scratch, rather than reworking pre-existing and out-dated systems.

Herzberg believes that the company is more than ready to meet the challenges associated with Africa, on the understanding that these challenges are no more severe than the obstacles presented by any other continent.

“It is important for us to help these cities overcome the different organisational and technical silos that they have – be it within a municipality or between the different departments. In order to build these smart cities, we must be able to bring industry, government and the end user together to make sure that people understand this technology, and see the benefits.”

Schneider Electric’s digital strategy will introduce connectivity across infrastructure and devices, promising to make life in African cities better, especially regarding water and energy management, two fundamental needs for both economic and social development.

“Energy, water and basic connectivity are fundamental pillars in any society. Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure solutions for Smart Cities will save African governments and businesses money on water and energy, where these systems minimise water and energy wastage, allowing for better service delivery and perhaps, better connectivity for the public,” Herzberg says.

Schneider’s Electric’s plan for the continent will also see an increase in decentralisation – an increasingly popular trend where energy is not only supplied by the utility but also by, for example, solar solutions installed in rural communities.

Decentralising energy has the potential to create a challenge for the energy industry, and as the number of off-grid players escalates, so will the need for energy automation and software. As the industry moves towards the digital way of doing business, Schneider Electric is also investing heavily in digital talent in Africa in order to move into other parts of the world.

“We see huge opportunities for our automation business and software business, where the focus is on energy automation. Schneider Electric operates on a slightly different model. We have a presence in every country, and rather than one big company, we are a group of local companies, made up of local people. We’re local but global at the same time. In this way, we put in a lot of time to develop local, digital talent, who then go on to become very attractive to other parts of the world.”

According to Herzberg, digital leapfrogging and the overall sentiment towards digitisation of business is most prominent in Egypt, South Africa East Africa.

“Creating and taking advantages of these new opportunities, we are aware that there is a challenge, perhaps the only challenge unique to Africa, and that is the distance of the continent. Also, Africa, as a set of economies, is one of the less economically integrated markets, compared to most other continents,” Herzberg concludes.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
Follow Fundisiwe Maseko on Twitter
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