A digital response to rapid urbanisation

CAF mag storyThe latest issue of Communications Africa featured GSMA’s head of sub-Saharan Africa Angela Wamola, who explained how digital technology, and in particular mobile telecommunications, can help to deliver energy and water and improve waste collection

Communications Africa (CAF): What inspired the development of this fund?

Angela Wamola (AW), head of sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA: Cities in Africa and Asia are faced with the concurrent challenges of rapid urbanisation, climate change, and persistent inequality. As we highlighted in our report Digital Solutions for the Urban Poor, these challenges make urban service provision particularly difficult for city governments and utility service providers. Inclusive utility services such as energy, water, sanitation, waste management and transport support urban resilience, which allows cities in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) to better withstand challenges related to population growth, climate change, and inequality.

CAF: Who is judging the applicants? What are they be looking for?

AW: An independent panel of experts appraise proposals based on the submitted material as well as recommendations from the GSMA and the Fund Manager. Successful grants will be awarded to start-ups, SMEs or social enterprises that leverage digital technology, especially mobile, to deliver urban services with socioeconomic, commercial and environmental impact.

CAF: Is it right to argue that mobile communications in particular can better and more quickly reach informal housing than fixed?

AW: Digital solutions can unlock business models with the capacity of extending service provision to low-income urban populations. For example, prepaid smart meters in the water sector can make safe water sources more affordable to low-income populations who otherwise rely on variably priced, unsafe sources. There is also growing recognition that ‘downstream’ innovations in plastic supply chains will help ensure that global and domestic brands have a consistent supply of high-quality recycled plastic and enable ‘upstream’ innovation where products use less virgin plastic and are designed to be reused or recycled.

Read the full article in the latest issue of Communications Africa

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