Nedbank buys into Ramaphosa’s smart city dream

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 06 Mar 2020

Big four bank Nedbank has bought into president Cyril Ramaphosa’s smart city dream, saying it wants to make this project a reality.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last month, Ramaphosa said a new South African city driven solely by smart technologies is taking shape in Lanseria, Gauteng.

Referencing his previous SONA, the president reiterated his dream of a smart South African city.

This city, which he referred to as a truly post-Apartheid city, will have 350 000 to half-a-million people who will call it home in the next decade, he said.

“It will not only be smart and 5G-ready, but will be a leading benchmark for green infrastructure, both continentally and internationally,” said the president.

Poovendran Naidoo, executive head for business banking product and interactions at Nedbank, says the announcement by Ramaphosa on the development of a smart city in Lanseria on the West Rand can address legacies of the past and unlock opportunities to grow the economy.

Expertise through partnerships

However, he says the project cannot be done by government alone and requires public-private partnerships with expertise to make good on the overall vision to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology – especially technology that leads to smart outcomes.

“Such a project requires the requisite expertise in infrastructure banking and bigger picture banking ethos geared towards success in projects big or small,” says Naidoo.

“With experience in large-scale projects, we’re convinced that at Nedbank, with our bigger-picture banking approach, we have the foundation to enhance public and private partnerships to make this smart city a reality.”

According to Naidoo, a typical smart city would comprise a number of services and infrastructure, including, but not limited to: adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation, solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing, robust IT connectivity and digitalisation, good governance (especially e-governance and citizen participation), sustainable environment, safety and security, particularly women, children and the elderly, and health and education.

He notes this development includes commercial offices and showrooms, residential areas, a transport hub, a shopping mall, a civic precinct, an education precinct, a community health centre, police and fire station, a multi-purpose sports centre and community parks.

“In addition to being identified as a future smart city, Lanseria is seen as a major corridor of development, as noted in a 2018 document detailing the province’s plans to build 30 new cities, with investments totalling over R100 billion.

“As a bank committed to sustainability, we’re particularly pleased to endorse the smart city project that will be constructed on green principles, set to feature rainwater harvesting and solar energy to reduce carbon footprint.

“At Nedbank, for instance, we have selected the SDGs [sustainable development goals] as an objective measure of purpose delivery and as descriptors of the good outcomes to which purpose-delivery will contribute.”

Naidoo says the SDGs offer a powerful lens through which Nedbank can identify opportunities for business innovation and growth.

“As a bank, we are looking at how we can harness the power of the fourth industrial revolution to unlock the sustainable development finance needed to meet the SDGs. As money experts committed to doing good, we are not just cantered on profit, but advancing innovation and technology for the benefit of humanity.”

Unrealistic dream

Meanwhile, Ofentse Dazela, director for pricing research at Africa Analysis, comments: “I am actually battling to understand the president’s fascination with this smart city idea.

“Firstly, the country has more compelling issues to contend with before we can start wasting our energy and resources on this unrealistic dream. It’s unthinkable that the government will entertain this lofty idea while children are still been swallowed by pit latrines at this day and age at their institutions of learning.

“I don’t see any point of driving a smart city project when you are not even going to ensure the technologies that are going to be deployed will function optimally due to incessant electricity outages we are now learning to live with. It defies logic really.”

Moreover, Dazela adds, if a smart city is going to be established anywhere in the country, it is not going to be government that will be responsible for that undertaking.

“A fully-functioning smart city requires new technologies such as IOT to be deployed and well managed so that data can be collated and effectively utilised for things such as monitoring and managing of traffic, transport systems, water supply networks and other services.

“It is really not rocket science to come to a conclusion that the government is actually punching above its weight here with this idea, as it neither possess the know-how, or even the capabilities to run with such complicated processes,” he says.