African Cities in Motion

Driving once in the middle of Lagos’ traffic hassle, I could feel the driver’s desperation. I told him about people working on the smart cities concept, and how information technology could enhance citizens’ quality of life. I felt then a rather skeptical reaction.

Last week, IESE Cities in Motion Index (CIMI) was released. My colleagues Pascual Berrone and Joan Enric Ricart are the driving force of the team behind this index, which is in its third edition now. For the first time, Lagos and Nairobi have been included in it. This is one more sign that Africa is more and more in the radar screen.

New infrastructures are transforming Lagos into a smarter city
New infrastructures are transforming Lagos into a smarter city

Are you surprised if I tell you that the two cities rank in the bottom-5 out of 181 cities? I guess not. What may surprise you, though, is that they rank in the top-third in terms of “public management,” one of the dimensions the index considers: Nairobi ranks 42, and Lagos 51. Public management encompasses “actions aimed at improving the administration’s efficiency,”* and it’s understood to be highly correlated with the state of public finances.

Nairobi ranks in the middle-range (101) in terms of “governance” which describes “the effectiveness, quality and sound guidance of state intervention. And so does Lagos (101) in terms of “economy” which includes “all those aspects that promote the economic development of a territory.”

As a visitor from the West, I find Lagos to be more challenging than Nairobi – even if I love the two of them. I have to say that I’m surprised at how high they’ve come out in the index in terms of public management. It may have to do with the indicators used to evaluate this dimension which relate to the tax system, the strength of the public finance system, the city’s international importance, and the prominence of dissenting voices and ideas within cities. I don’t have ready access to the raw data. If the high rank were driven by the latter indicator, I think this would be great news for the citizens.

Any thoughts?

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*Descriptions of dimension are taken from the IESE Cities in Motion Index report. You may find in the report details on the indicators used.