Accelerating urban development and innovation in African cities

29 May 2013 | Dr. Zaki Khoury , Regional Manager, International Organizations, Middle East & Africa

​Visit many of Africa’s cities today and you’ll see an amazing transformation. Cities are expanding, economies are booming. And there’s a spirit of optimism from Durban to Djibouti, Maputo to Marrakech.

It’s in this context that regional leaders, government officials, and private-sector high-level executives have gathered in Marrakech, Morocco, this week for the 48th African Development Bank (AfDB) Annual Meeting. The event focuses on improving social and economic development among African member countries. The AfDB is looking to both the private and public sectors to identify solutions to the continent’s greatest development challenges in areas such as infrastructure, climate change, governance, and innovation.

Microsoft is among the private-sector companies participating in the annual meeting. As a part of an evolving long-term partnership, we’re working with the AfDB to address Africa’s development challenges and explore areas where technology can make a real impact.

One area of mutual interest for Microsoft and the AfDB: creating vibrant, prosperous cities. Cities are engines of economic growth and social integration, and with more than half of Africa’s population living in urban areas, it’s crucial for African cities to adopt an urban development strategy. Technology is a key to ensuring efficiency in managing a city’s services across sectors such as transportation, energy, water, and infrastructure.

To improve economic growth and social vitality in African cities, the AfDB has adopted a new urban development strategy, which focuses on strengthening infrastructure delivery, corporate governance, and private-sector development in an effort to support urban development and planning. As part of that strategy, Microsoft helped the AfDB develop the Urban Dashboard, a new cloud-based tool to help the Bank and African policymakers improve urban management and governance.

The Urban Dashboard allows city governments to measure the progress of their city against a set of urban indicators (also referred to as KPIs, or key performance indicators). Cities can use the dashboard to continually monitor and improve their urban management strategies as new data becomes available. It can also help cities track progress and enable city management staff and the AfDB to report on urban trends and analyses. And while the information in the dashboard is secure and private, cities can choose to share their performance data with other cities. Comparing performance on standardized KPIs can be an effective way to promote best practices across cities.

In Marrakech, we’re promoting the first dashboard pilot city—Fes (pop. 1 million), Morocco’s second largest city—with the aim of scaling the dashboard across other African cities. Fes was chosen as the pilot city because of its recognized opportunities for economic growth, its energetic mayor committed to the city’s social and economic development, and large tourism potential. In addition to Morocco serving as the host of the AfDB Annual Meeting, the country is also actively involved in enhancing development planning to improve local regions.

This pilot is an example of the solutions Microsoft is developing to help cities provide better services and foster development.

It’s encouraging to see so much discussion around technology and innovation as an integral part of Africa’s urban development. Through meetings like these, which bring together a wide cross-section of stakeholders, I am confident that the momentum will continue and result in a real impact for better cities.

Dr. Zaki Khoury
Regional Manager, International Organizations, Middle East & Africa

About the Author

Dr. Zaki Khoury | Regional Manager, International Organizations, Middle East & Africa

Dr. Zaki Khoury leads Microsoft cooperation with International, Multi-lateral, and Bi-lateral Organizations, across Middle East and Africa. Read more