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The Growth of a Cryptocurrency City

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes below.


As overcrowding and congestion increase in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, the government have commissioned a new 2-billion-dollar project designed to boost the growing economy of Senegal as well as reduce the social and environmental problems of overpopulation.[1]


With a population exceeding 3 million within an area of 83 square kilometres, the upcoming futuristic city named ‘Diamniadio’ is one of the most audacious aspects of President Macky Sall’s Emerging Senegal plan that is designed to aid the development of Senegal by 2035.[2]


Image Source: Hussein Bakri/BAD Consultant/Semer Group


Located 40 kilometres from Dakar, the capital city of a country where 19.9% of deaths yearly are from air pollution levels that are seven times more than recommended;[3] the new city will aim to alleviate several social and environmental problems that have arisen from the growth in population. This includes a sharp incline in car usage and thus reduction in air quality.[4]

The labelled ‘smart city’ will provide middle-class housing for 350,000 people to address the poor state of real estate in Dakar,[5] feature luxury building to attract economic investment within the region as well as the proposed introduction of the ‘AKOIN’ cryptocurrency which will become central to operations in the region.[6] The scheme has been inspired by the desire to bring power back to the people in providing a secure currency which would not be interfered with by the government.[7]


Despite the audacious proposals, this idea is not revolutionary within the region. Since Senegal’s independence in 1960, the idea of a new urban hub to reduce the pressure on the capital has been explored but eventually discontinued. [8]

While the city has been projected to create over 100,000 jobs, 46.7% of the Senegalese population line are below the poverty line, with 23% under the line in the capital Dakar.[9] Thus, it is unlikely that the boost in jobs would see access to most of the population. Furthermore, the new middle-class housing is seemingly inaccessible to the people of Senegal, with a middle class comprising only 3% of the population.[10] Consequently, success would be difficult within the targeted wealth class.[11]


A further concern of this project is that the $2 billion price tag will increase the strain of debt on a country which has already seen its public debt rise to nearly 61% of its GDP.[12]


Nonetheless, Senegal has seen some of its most rapid economic growth in recent years, with the economy growing at an annual rate of 7%, attracting investments from the economic powerhouse China, who has promised to invest a substantial $105 million.[13]


The move to create a smart city with a cryptocurrency centre follows the trend of African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa’s move to turn overcrowded urban centres into new developments.[14] Alike the Rwandan urban vision which fails to acknowledge the socioeconomic reality of a country in which 40% are living on less than $1.25 a day;[15] it is difficult to see how a ‘crypto city’[16] will provide a long-term solution to Senegal’s problems.


Jesse Bakare

Feature Writer

Africa

SOURCES

[1] Africa news, “Senegal building new city in bid to ease congestion in Dakar” (2018) <https://www.africanews.com/2018/10/25/senegal-building-new-city-in-bid-to-ease-congestion-in-dakar//> accessed 25/01/2020. [2] Illaria Maria Sala, “Senegal is building a futuristic city to deal with its congestion problems” (2018) <https://qz.com/africa/1352926/will-senegals-diamniadio-city-solve-dakars-problems/> accessed 1/02/2020. [3] Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, “Senegal & Pollution, Health Impact, Economic Impact, Injustice ad Solutions” (2018) <https://www.pureearth.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Senegal-Pollution-Health-and-Economic-Impacts-The-Lancet-Report.pdf> accessed 10/01/2020; A 2015 report indicates that 19,500 Senegalese died from pollution-related disease. Almost twice the deaths from HIV, TB and Malaria combined. [4] Louise Dewast, “Our children are gasping – Senegal’s toxic air battle” (2019) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-47820939> accessed 1/01/2020. [5] Aria Bendix, “Senegal is building a $2 billion futuristic city to help cut down on overcrowding in Dakar — check out its abstract design” (2018) <https://www.businessinsider.com/senegal-building-2-billion-futuristic-city-inspired-by-nature-2018-9?r=US&IR=T> accessed 15/02/2020. [6] Anothony Cuthbertson, “AKON PLANS TO BUILD A CRYPTOCURRENCY CITY IN AFRICA THAT WILL BE A 'REAL LIFE WAKANDA’ ” (2018) <https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/akoin-akon-cryptocurrency-bitcoin-senegal-crypto-city-a8407766.html> accessed 10/01/2020. [7] BBC NEWS Africa, “Unravelling the mystery of Akon’s Wakanda” (2018) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-44574969> accessed 5/02/2020. [8] Sala (n 2). [9] The World Bank, (2019) <https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/senegal> accessed 1/02/2020. [10] Ibid. [11] Sala (n 2) [12] The Borgen Project, “10 FACTS ABOUT THE SENEGAL POVERTY RATE” (2017) <https://borgenproject.org/senegal-poverty-rate/> accessed 10/01/2020. [13] Mira Slavova & Ekene Okwechime African Smart Cities Strategies for Agenda 2063 (2016) 2:2 Africa Journal of Management 220-229, DOI: 10.1080/23322373.2016.1175266. [14] Sala (n 2). [15] The World Bank (n 9). [16] Cuthbertson (n 6).

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