Num-Urb: Digital tech at the service of urban planning in Africa

© 2022 Amath BA

© 2022 Amath BA

Applying digital technologies to an urban environment was the main topic of discussion during several events organised by the Centre Excellence in Africa (EXAF) early June in Dakar.

The events were launched by a roundtable, organised on June 8th, which highlighted the political context and its related challenges. Our Director, Jérôme Chenal, debated the operational and regulatory implementation of urban planning and digital policy in Senegal with two key actors working on these issues on a daily basis, namely: Mr. Oumar Sow, Director General of Urban Planning and Architecture at the Ministry of Urban Renewal, Housing and Living Environment and Mr. Alé Badara Sy, a Green City Specialist at the Global Green Growth Institute.

The official Award Ceremony for the Num-Urb Master's competition took place the following day at the École Supérieure Polytechnique de Dakar (ESP), in the presence of HE Mr. Andrea Semadeni, Swiss Ambassador to Senegal, Dr. Olivier Küttel, EPFL’s Head of International Affairs and Prof. Falilou Mbacke Sambe, Director of the ESP. We warmly congratulate the three winners, namely: Fatima Ezzahra Mohtich, Mouhamadou Lamine Kébé and Christopher Willcocks!

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The three winners of the Num-Urb competition with HE Mr. Semadeni, Swiss Ambassador to Senegal

A scientific symposium concluded the series of events on June 9th. Three roundtables provided interesting insight into the application of digital technologies to urban planning to shape the African cities of tomorrow.

The first roundtable brought together Mrs. Gaëlle Gibon, Executive Director of the Agence Francophone de l'Intelligence Artificielle and Mr. Abdoukhadre Diagne, Chief Operating Officer of Synapsys Conseils to explore, among other things, the issues related to the necessary infrastructure to deploy digital technologies.

© 2022 Amath BA

During the second roundtable, Dr. Djibril Diop, CEO of the Think-Tank Observatoire de la nouvelle ville, Mr. Séname Koffi Agbodjinou, Anthropologist and Architect at L'Africaine d'Architecture, and Mr. Léandry Jieutsa, Urban Planner at UN Habitat, discussed the digitalisation of urban services.

© 2022 Amath BA

Meanwhile, the third one focused on testimonies on the digitalisation of land management and urban services, as well as on training, both in Senegal and in the broader West African region. These topics were discussed by Mr. Patrick Emmanuel Somy, Urban Planner at the Bureau National d'Etudes Techniques et de Développement en Côte d’Ivoire, Mrs. Scarlett Zongo, Director of the Cité Branchée in Ouagadougou and Dr. Seydina Moussa Ndiaye, Program Director at the Université Virtuelle du Sénégal (UVS).

© 2022 Amath BA

The rich exchanges during these two days, led to a number of interesting cross-cutting insights. For instance, all three roundtables emphasised the importance of training new generations of urban planners and policy-makers in digital technologies. This reaffirmed the EXAF Centre in its strategic direction. Indeed, we are convinced that the solutions proposed by students in their master's or doctoral thesis are extremely valuable and should be a source of inspiration. The quality of the work presented by the three Num-Urb winners clearly demonstrated the relevance of this approach.

Data protection was also addressed during the roundtables. Most speakers suggested that public governance should act as a regulator to control the use of the information collected. This would enable digital technologies to be used to serve citizens and prevent them from becoming ' products' for advertisers. Participants also emphasised the importance of access to these technologies for all citizens, regardless of their gender, age or social status.

As expected, the topics emphasised by the panellists were in line with the research areas of the EXAF Centre in its range of initiatives. The symposium highlighted the pertinence of our activities on the African continent. As Jérôme Chenal concluded at the end of the event in Dakar: “By analysing these topics today, we will find the answers to the questions of tomorrow.”

To find out more, EXAF is developing a comprehensive summary of the roundtable discussions. A full report will be available shortly on our website. Please subscribe to our different social networks for the publication announcement.