Image of world atlas with 4IR acronym Fourth Industrial Revolution acronymmegacity is defined by Wikipedia as a built-up urban area with a population in excess of 10 million people. In accordance with this definition Lagos in Nigeria and Kinshasa in DRC are currently the only two examples of megacities in Sub Saharan Africa. Cape Digital Foundation believes that this definition should be reframed in South Africa – not to reflect the number of our cities’ inhabitants, but rather in light of the fact that it is our townships, rather than our cities or metropolitan areas, that are growing at the fastest pace. With more and more migration into our townships from rural areas and neighbouring countries it is our townships that are our fastest growing urban areas and so it is South Africa’s high-density townships that are South Africa’s Megacities of the South.

Smart Townships are key to keeping in step with the Fourth Industrial Revolution

With this in mind, CDF believes that it is essential for attention to be paid to South Africa’s townships evolving to become Smart Townships – built on the foundation of five core pillars: reliable digital infrastructure, affordable connectivity, digital skills, local content and data collection. This is particularly important if our growing township population has any hope of taking part in The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In a World Bank background paper on digital dividends, entitled World Development Report (2016), research findings show that broadband penetration has a significant impact on GDP growth – ranging from 0.26% to 0.85% for each ten percentage point increase in penetration. Failing to focus attention on implementing the five core pillars of Smart Township building will lead to the digital divide in our society becoming increasingly acute. As a result, digital penetration will decrease, with less and less people enjoying the possibility of having any access to connectivity or growing their digital skills – all of which are necessary to become active citizens in the 4IR.

Smart Townships provide the platform to grow the township economy

An important outcome of building South Africa’s Smart Townships is that more than just training digitally savvy job seekers, building Smart Townships goes hand in hand with providing the training and skills to individuals in becoming township entrepreneurs. Through providing digital training and up-skilling SMME business owners, income is retained within township communities, boosting the circular economy. Township residents get to earn and spend their income within the community rather than commuting out to jobs. They are provided with the wherewithal to grow their businesses and may go on to employ others. In these ways building Smart Townships through skilling SMME’s helps to grow the township economy.

Blended learning transforms township SMMEs into 4IR-ready entrepreneurs

Practically speaking, when it comes to training and readying township entrepreneurs to reap the benefits of being ready for 4IR, blended learning is the key. Beyond the traditional definition of blended learning, where people learn via digital devices and online media alongside traditional face-to-face teaching, CDF’s expanded model of blended learning is much more hands-on. It’s learning by watching and doing – by observing and then producing something tangible. This definition of blended learning includes group interaction and peer learning, which also help to grow digital skills as well as nurture soft skills and develop business acumen.

Join us in focusing on building Smart Townships in the Western Cape

Read our January 2019 newsletter and learn more about how CDF put their proof of concept, built around these pillars, through its paces in 2018 – and get a sneak preview of our exciting plans for this year.

2019 is going to be a year of extra-ordinary progress in the building of Smart Townships. However, we cannot achieve what we have planned without funding. We invite you to consider becoming one of Cape Digital Foundation’s funding partners. In doing so you will be:

  • providing the wherewithal for young people and unemployed township residents become digitally savvy entrepreneurs
  • nurturing local small enterprise creation and the growth of township economies; and
  • skilling the next generation of leaders and innovators to keep South Africa in step with The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

To become a CDF funding partner get in touch with Executive Director, Emma Kaye at or call her on +27 (0)21 409 7000.


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