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“Standards make cities smarter”

World Standards Day 2017 – The relevance of the Theme to Africa with regards to Africa’s Urbanization Challenges and the role of ARSO THC 03 on Building and Construction.

Each year on 14 October, the members of the IEC, ISO and ITU, including members from African countries, celebrate World Standards Day, an event organised by the World Standards Cooperation (ttps:// meant for paying tribute to the collaborative efforts of the thousands of experts worldwide, including Experts from Africa, who develop the voluntary technical agreements that are published as international standards.

The World Standards Day of 14th October 2017 was celebrated under the theme:  “Standards make cities smarter”.

According to ISO JTC 1, ISO TMB Smart Cities Strategic Advisory Group, BSI PAS 180, ITU-T Focus Group on Smart Sustainable Cities, Smart Cities is a new concept and a new model, which applies the new generation of information technologies, such as the internet of things, cloud computing, big data and space/geographical information integration, to facilitate the planning, construction, management and smart services of cities.

What stands out is the fact that smart cities seek to improve quality of life, ensure efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring sustainable, prosperous and inclusive present and future for the citizens and responding to challenges such as climate change, rapid population growth, and political and economic instability.

As emphasised by ISO/IEC JTC 1, ddeveloping Smart Cities can benefit synchronized development, industrialisation, informationisation, urbanization and agricultural modernization and sustainability of cities development. The main target for developing Smart Cities is to pursue: convenience of the public services, delicacy of city management, liveability of living environment, smartness of infrastructures, long term effectiveness of network security (‘Smart Cities Preliminary Report 2014‘).

At its most basic level, a city needs to provide its people with uninterrupted access to power, water, food, transportation and healthcare in both normal (blue sky) conditions and during disruptive events. Smart Cities ensure, therefore, Agile transportation systems and interactive bus shelters; Citywide cloud access and near field communication (NFC)-enhanced digital services; GPS services; Improved public safety; Cleaner air via cleaner energy sources and the integration of nature into the city’s footprint; Smart grids to reduce energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and problem response times; Energy efficient housing that takes advantage of natural lighting; Higher quality food through urban agricultural programmes and Disaster preparedness and proactive response to weather events

The challenge for the Africa, according to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals under its Goal 11 (E/2017/66), is for the governments and stakeholders to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Key elements of a sustainable smart city include, Offering a sustainable agricultural ecosystem and plentiful access to raw materials; Favouring efficient building design, sustainable energy systems, green; transportation, and green living; Providing zero footprint water consumption through low and high tech means; (rainwater collection, recycling systems); Exhibiting an awareness of its own context and local impact; Resiliency to long-term changes (By Anum Yoon, 2015)

Given that the Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached a record high of 400 parts per million in 2016 (E/2017/66), the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals under its Goal 6 called on Governments to ensure the provision and access to safe water and sanitation; sound management of freshwater ecosystems and environmental sustainability to ensure human health, while mitigating climate change and its impacts on the Cities. Under its Goal 7 The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (E/2017/66) under its calls for to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Key areas where innovation in energy technologies are imperative to the future of cities included: Smart asset management and the use of sustainable materials in service grids to facilitate long term, cost effective performance; Smart grids and smart meters that provide vital information regarding network performance to facilitate better connection to local; renewable energy sources and allow consumers to monitor and adapt their energy use behaviours; Better power quality management through energy storage (thermal and electrical); Network monitoring, control, and operation to support longer asset lifetimes and lower maintenance needs, Energy efficient designs for housing and public lighting, Greener energy systems via renewable, clean energy carriers (ISO/IEC JTC 1).

In their submission, James M. Shannon, IEC President, Zhang Xiaogang, ISO President and Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, equated the theme to the availability of Sufficient fresh water; universal access to cleaner energy; the ability to travel efficiently from one point to another; a sense of safety and security, highlighting that these are the kinds of promises modern cities must fulfil if they are to stay competitive and provide a decent quality of life to their citizens (

The theme is more relevant to Africa where experts have highlighted the challenges associated with the population pressure on the cities and urban centres. Joan Clos, United Nations, 2016, highlights the overarching challenge for Africa in the decades to come with the experience of massive population growth in a context of widespread poverty. ASHLEY Kirk (2016) puts the challenges into perspective as the population growth quadruples by 2100. “By 2100, Africa will be home to 4.4 billion people, four times its current population. By 2050, more than half of Africa’s 2.2bn people will live in its rapidly expanding cities. Such an increase far larger than the global population increase of 53 per cent by 2100 will pose significant challenges

Source: Geeska Afrika:-: http://

The issue of safe, affordable and quality housing has been a pain in the flesh of policy makers, the world over, including Africa. Pessimists are concerned that the continent’s cities could become overstressed through rapid, unplanned urbanization, generating political, economic and environmental upheaval. For example, the UN has counted 71 African cities with a population higher than 750,000, many of which lack the infrastructure to support large populations and the industrial transformation associated with urbanization. These cities are growing at an unstoppable pace – expected to hold 100m more people in 2025 than they did in 2010. The UN warns that “The continent continues to suffer under very rapid urban growth accompanied by massive urban poverty and many other social problems. Experts (Jeremy Barofsky, Eyerusalem Siba, and Jonathan Grabinsky Wednesday, September 7, 2016, Africa in Focus, Mariama Sow (Wednesday, December 30, 2015, Africa in Focus) are concerned with the growth of urbanization in Africa without industrial revolution to populate cities and agricultural productivity and structural transformation, like in other parts of the world.

With population growth, the global health community is bracing itself for far reaching health challenge. The challenge for Africa’s urbanization and the rise in slums also remain the poorly resourced and weak health systems, taking the Ebola epidemic in West Africa as an example. The developed nations are better resourced in terms of healthcare, finances and facilities as they have a stable electricity supply, access to refrigeration, sanitation and better supply-chain management – all critical for managing vaccines and other vital medicines.

For purposes of awareness creation, the World Bank and the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) jointly hosted a conference titled Urbanization in Africa: Trends, Promises and Challenges from June 1 to 2, 2015 in Accra, Ghana with the outcome revealing the need for better laws, policies, regulations and actions for Africa to reap positive dividends from its urbanization with regards to the continent’s transformation.

On the same note, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III, held, on, October 17-20, 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, on the need for “reinvigorating the global commitment to sustainable urbanization and focus on the implementation of a New Urban Agenda, building on the Habitat Agenda of Istanbul in 1996.

In Cote D’Ivoire, an inaugural edition of SMART CITY AFRICA will take place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on May 22nd to 24th, 2018 at the HOTEL SOFITEL IVOIRE. Delegates attending SMART CITY AFRICA Abidjan.

Role of Standards and ARSO Initiatives.

On the role of standards, the ISO, ITU and IEC acknowledge that International Standards contain expert knowledge and best practices, and are essential enablers in ensuring quality and performance of products and services, support the development of tailor-made solutions that can be adapted to the particular circumstances of a given city. In addition, they drive compatibility between technologies and help users to compare and choose the best solution available.

Various studies (BERR 2008; NSTC 2011; European Commission 2011) have revealed that with increasing demand for emerging technology-based innovation that will allow sustainable growth and economic recovery, creating a supportive environment for technological innovation through standardisation has been gaining much attention in recent years and in the same breath many studies (Blind & Gauch 2009; Brévignon-dodin 2009; Swann 2010; NSTC 2011) have already noted important functions of standards in enabling technological innovation by; defining and establishing common foundations upon which innovative technology may be developed; and allowing interoperability between and across products and systems, stimulating both innovation and diffusion of new technologies. Therefore, there is an increasing awareness that carefully constructed and implemented standards are crucial in fostering innovation and emergence

As technologies develop or advance standards are required to ensure performance, conformity and safety of new products and process. (Utterback J.M (1994).

Source: ARSO – ARSO THC 03 Meeting on Building and Civil Engineering: 12th to 15th April 2016 — Nairobi, Kenya.

On its part, ARSO through its ARSO THC 03 on Building and Civil engineering, which is among the THCs established at the onset on the commencement of standards harmonization in Africa in the 1980s, addresses the harmonization of African Standards (currently about 95 standards in total) for the building and construction industries, as a key priority sector identified in Article 49 of the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) of 1991 (The Abuja Treaty (AUC, 1991). The ARSO Standards for the building and construction industry, which are available for adoption by ARSO members and Stakeholders, are designed to improve the quality and efficiency of the building and construction industry by encouraging innovative approaches in technology and industrial development activities and in achieving economy in construction works to ensure sustainable urbanization, with targeted beneficiaries to include Government agencies providing responsible for land administration, housing, urban planning and development, rural development, human settlement planning and development, access to health services and protecting public safety through policy, service provision, legislation;  Regulatory authorities in the building and construction industry, Industry, including manufacturers and suppliers of building and construction materials, building equipment and machinery; Engineers involved in various facets of building, construction and civil works; Real estate developers and entrepreneurs and The Academia.


The ARSO Technical Harmonisation Committees 8 on Transport and Communication, 9 on Environmental Management, and 10 on Energy and Natural Resources are also platforms through which ARSO is ensuring standards for African Smart Cities with regards to the Environmental sustainability, Cleaner and safer Energy and effective Transportation and communication systems.

Available ARSO Sustainability standards include:

  1. ARS AES 1-2014 Agriculture – Sustainability and eco-labelling – Requirements
  2. ARS AES 2-2014 Fisheries – Sustainability and eco-labelling – Requirements
  3. ARS AES 3-2014 Forestry – Sustainability and eco-labelling – Requirements
  4. ARS AES 4-2014 Tourism — Sustainability and eco-labelling — Requirements



  1. Ashley Kirk, The Telegraph, 11 March 2016 – What Africa will look like in 100 years –
  2. Anum Yoon, 2015 – Tripple, pundit, Aug 12th, 2015 – How Smart Cities Enable Urban Sustainability.
  3. ISO/IEC JTC 1, 2015 – Information technology – Smart Cities – Preliminary Report 2014
  4. ITC News Africa – 2016- Are African cities adopting the Smart City concept?,!prettyPhoto
  5. Jae-Yun Ho, et al, 2013 – Evolving Roles of Standards in Technological Innovation – Evidence from Photovoltaic Technology
  6. Jeremy Barofsky, Eyerusalem Siba, and Jonathan Grabinsky, Africa in focus – September 7, 2016 – Can rapid urbanization in Africa reduce poverty? Causes, opportunities, and policy recommendations
  7. Jérôme Chenal, 2015– Capitalizing on Urbanization: The Importance of Planning, Infrastructure, and Finance for Africa’s Growing Cities
  8. Joseph J Bish (2016) – Population growth in Africa: grasping the scale of the challenge –
  9. Mariama Sow,Africa in focus,  December 30, 2015Foresight Africa 2016: Urbanization in the African context –
  10. Robert H. Allen, et al. 1999 – The Role of Standards in Innovation
  11. SMART and Safe City – 6-7 June 2017, –
  12. UN Habitat 2015 – Housing. Habitat III Issue Papers, New York, N.Y.: Habitat III, 2015.
  13. UN Habitat 2015 – Smart Cities. Habitat III Issue Papers, New York, N.Y.: Habitat III, 2015.
  14. UN Habitat 2015 – Transport and Mobility. Habitat III Issue Papers, New York, N.Y.: Habitat III, 2015.
  15. UN Habitat, 2015 – 7 Informal settlements. Habitat III Issue Papers, New York, N.Y.: Habitat III, 2015.
  16. UN, 2017UN, 2017 – Sustainable development knowledge platform
  17. United Nations, 2017 – E /2017/66 – Economic and Social Council – Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, Report of the Secretary General
  18. Utterback, J. M., 1994 – MASTERING THE Dynamics of Innovation
  19. UN 2017 – High level political forum on sustainable development, convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council- Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, Report of the Secretary General

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