Africa’s Rising Smart Green Economy — our Wakanda story

Solar Project in Rwanda, Photograph: Sameer Halai/SunFunder/Gigawatt Globa

Recently I watched the movie Black Panther, the beautiful story of a fictional African country called “Wakanda”- a story that transcends the superhero genre to emerge as an epic of inspirational proportions. In the story Wakanda has never been colonised by European settlers, it’s the most advanced place in the universe filled with the smartest technology known to (wo)man, otherwise what is referred to as a Smart Country. Another enlightening paradigm shift with Wakanda is the strong presence of African women who advise and comfort the male leads while still having their own lives and agency. As I watched this epic movie I reflected on my journey and more specifically in relation to Africa’s rising global status as a smart, green economy.

I reflected on Ethiopia building Africa’s first waste-to-energy plant in Addis Ababa. The plant will incinerate 1,400 tons of waste every day — that’s roughly 80 per cent of the city’s rubbish. I also reflected on the rising smart, green economy story of Rwanda, who just happen to be one of the world’s top 10 growing economies, which is increasingly making large-scale investments in off grid power projects for its communities. When a visitor lands in Kigali airport, the message is clearly “No plastics welcome here, Thank you”. This city has been plastic bag free since 2008. One project has enabled over 1.8 million people to access off-grid renewable electricity. In some of these off grid projects communities will use electricity for the first time and move away from expensive and harmful fuels such as diesel, kerosene, and dry cell batteries. I also reflected on my birth country — South Africa- who has managed to turn the tide on its energy crisis of 2008 by investing in cleaner and renewable energy since 2010. The country’s competitive utility renewable energy programme has been regarded as one of the best in the world since it was introduced in 2010.

Yes the renewable technology revolution is a global one with international companies wanting a seat on the table. However the table seating has changed much different from the days of mineral resources of 1600s. Today Africa has access to global information on its finger tips — like in the fictitious but inspirational Wakanda — Africa has smart countries like Kenya. In 2016 the Konza Technopolis Development Authority in Kenya (or Konza Techno City for short) entered an agreement with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme to standardise the development of what many consider would lead to the creation of the first African smart city. And while Kenya is being regarded as one of the champions in this regard, it is understood that other countries on the continent will follow its example and find innovative ways of bridging the technology gap and building a better-connected future for all their citizens. South Africa’s Tshwane municipality and others are already following suit by introducing more Wi-Fi points across cities and communities as a means of getting citizens connected to smarter services. The latter is also introducing smart metering technology to ensure that their environments are measuring and managing their consumption of electricity and water sources accordingly. And thus ensuring utmost resistance to the effects of climate change…

As I reflect on these green economy and smart technology developments taking shape across Africa…I start imagining that Wakanda is not really a far fetched ideology of where Africa should be…in fact Wakanda is already here. Similarly Africa’s smart, green status has never been colonised by anyone. It is OUR story that we can choose to share with the world but mostly importantly it is OURS … so we can do with it as we see fit! Now it is up to us to ensure that it becomes our Smart, Green Wakanda forever!

Songo Didiza

Green Building Design Group |

Green Building Design Group (GreenBDG) is the partner of choice in the creation of adaptive and inclusive green economy in Africa:

Experts in the Green Economy– over 40 years combined team experience in the green economy
Driving and Influencing Policy Implementation through direct access to the construction regulatory bodies, provincial and municipal governments 
Structured Mentorship of industry participants through combined training and enterprise development programmes for industry participants