Kizito Okechukwu.  I  Supplied
Kizito Okechukwu. I Supplied

Building model cities to boost Africa’s growth

By Kizito Okechukwu Time of article published Jun 5, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG – The concept of “cities and cities” was conceptualised during my trip to Togo a few months ago. While having a discussion with my long-time friend Simon Rweyongoza we analysed Africa’s development and explored what it would take to reinvent it.

Recently South Korean Ambassador to South Africa, Dr Jong-Dae Park, visited 22 on Sloane and gave me a book, Re-Inventing Africa's Development: Linking Africa to the Korean Development Model.

This gave insights into how linking Africa to the South Korean development model would help the continent advance towards success.

So what makes Jong-Dae’s book so relevant to Africa you might ask? What makes Seoul different from say Joburg, Lagos, Nairobi or Kampala?

The economy of South Korea is one of the largest in Asia and one of the top 10 in the world. From being one of the poorest countries, it rose to become one of the most highly-developed and richest in just a few generations.

Often, the intelligent city concept involves a re-urbanisation of cities, encouraging urbanites to focus their time, energy and abilities on the ongoing urban project through a new layer of electronic connectivity.

A virtuous circle is thus formed, in which the city empowers its citizens to power its evolution, creating a positive feedback loop. Above all, smart cities are interactive cities.

So how do we build African cities that mirror the South Korean development model?

The book points to three key points:

  • Strong role of government: the government is very critical in the development of any country in the world, in policy, management and driving active citizenry. Many authors seem unanimous that our challenge on the continent is a management one. Many governments in Africa still lack the skills and willingness to drive their country’s development. Although many still argue that the colonial past hurts us, which is acknowledgeable. The cold hard truth is that it’s simply poor management. What’s more, a severe lack of good, visionary leadership has hampered our development and where many from outside the continent see opportunities, our youth sees despair and clamours to get a better life outside of it.

  • Active entrepreneurship of corporations: no matter how big or small, we have to actively advance the importance of entrepreneurship and help companies to advance this internally, while supporting the growth of new businesses. As IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty said last week: “Corporations owe it to society and their shareholders to help prepare people for AI-driven changes to the workforce.”

  • Extraordinary levels of work ethic: we live in a society where most prefer the 9-to-5 gig. Now, without promoting workplace abuse, we have to consider making people more productive with a good work ethic, which is a belief that hard work and diligence have a moral benefit and an inherent ability, virtue or value to strengthen character and individual abilities.

A few weeks ago, many people criticised Jack Ma, billionaire and founder of Alibaba, China's biggest e-commerce platform, for saying that “to survive at the Alibaba group, you need to work 12 hours a day, six days a week.”

To conclude, there are various avenues, most of which are proven and successful like the South Korean model, to totally reinvent the personality, presence and power of African cities to prosper more and thrive.

And we can’t delay this any more, we’re already too far behind

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chairperson of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest start-up campus. The views expressed here are his own.


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