France was very well represented at the 3rd edition of Smart City Expo Casablanca from 18-20 April, 2018. The event has positioned itself as Africa’s hub for intelligent and above all inclusive cities.
“Casablanca is a world leader in its use of new technologies to improve the lives of residents” declared Ricardo Zapatero, international business director at Fira de Barcelona (*), which co-organises the event, on 18 April, 2018 during the inaugural session at the Hyatt Regency Congress Hall.
The inaugural session also saw Mohamed Jouahri, director of Casablanca Events and Animation, welcome the participation of representatives from 30 countries and a delegation from Shanghai as headline guests. France was well represented too. During a round table session on aligning finance and regulations for urban innovation, Renaissance urbaine president Nicolas Buchoud asserted that “Casablanca is a case study for the challenges facing smart cities”.
“It is no longer possible to think tech without thinking social”, he continued, picking up on the central theme of these three days of fruitful debate. The need to put citizens, residents, public service users, at the centre of decision-making was reiterated by speakers at all the various events. And in a country where basic requirements (access to water, education, employment, etc.) remain unsatisfactory for a large part of the population, that is purely logical.
The drive to increase revenues
It is no accident that providing 10,000 households with access to essential services is one of the objectives set out for Casablanca by the Global Fund for Cities Development (FMDV) under an agreement for a 172 million euros loan over 20 years. Other objectives upon which release of the funds is conditional include increasing tax revenues by 40%, modernising administration of the tax receipt system, upgrading 116 km of public highway and simplifying and digitising administrative procedures in the Casablanca’s municipal administration. Karim Slimani of the FMDV asserted that “digital technologies have proved to be incredibly efficient in terms of improving local tax collection rates”.
1,500 Grand Paris projects
French representatives at the Expo included Vincent Gollain, who presented a session on how Grand Paris is an opportunity for France’s capital region to change its image and break out from its confinement to “Culture and Tourism” audiences. Vincent Gollain, urban development director of IAU-Ile de France (Institut d’aménagement et d’urbanisme d’Ile-de-France) used the Casablanca Expo to highlight the 1,500 urban development projects already brought to life by the Grand Paris Express”.
Gérard Wolf, president of Medef International’s sustainable cities taskforce, and Deloitte’s Christian Gillet, co-author with Nicolas Buchoud of a new report presented at Smart City Expo Casablanca (see separate article) were also in attendance. Real estate consultant Christian Gillet emphasised that digital technologies could allow Morocco to leapfrog stages of development, citing the country’s record mobile phone ownership rate of 130%. Meanwhile, Christian Gillet recalled the trend-setting example of His Majesty the King of Morocco in regard to mobile phone uptake.
The mayor of Mulhouse gave a presentation on the various smart city facets of her town. A new project named “Mulhouse diagonals” designed with urban architects Reichen et Robert & Associés, will see the town’s many canals emerge from beneath concrete slabs that partly cover them, not only reviving their charm but also the working heritage – they will be used to reduce heat islands. Mulhouse has created a “mobility account”, which allows users to use and pay for all the town’s different transport modes in a single app, and another app called “Allô proximité”, which alerts users to transport disruptions within the town. Both these developments were detailed at the Casablanca event.
At the exhibition fair, French exhibitors included Derichebourg (urban services) and OpenDatasoft (open data). The former is already well established in Morocco (see separate article), whilst the latter intends to set up shop in the country very soon. “Our ‘Software As A Service’ solutions give cities the means of presenting data back to the public, with the option to use third party API if they wish” explains Frédéric Gauzy, director for South Europe and the Maghreb for the Parisian firm, which has pioneered open data usage and recently signed a partnership deal in Morocco with MLK Consulting.
Many French firms are involved in Casablanca’s transport infrastructure and ticketing, the latter being more modern than the ticketing offer in Paris. Valence-based company ACS, which was recently purchased by Conduent (formerly part of Xerox), created the contactless payment card-operated turnstiles for the tramway in Casablanca. The tramway is run by RATP Dev, with rolling stock provided by Alstom and consultancy by Systra. “Following its launch of ticketing by contactless payment cards, Casa Transport is now looking at ways to introduce NFC-based payments (using mobile phones) and at post-payment”, explained Adnane Salama, one of Casa Transport’s Information System executives. The Smart City ethos is truly galvanising Casablanca.
(*) Fira de Barcelona, co-organiser of Smart City Expo Casablanca, also organises the Smart City Expos in Catalunya (Barcelona), Quebec (Montréal) and Mexico (Mexico City).
Touda Loufti (Casa Events): “Smart City Expo Casablanca did not just appear out of nowhere”
Touda Loufti – kingpin and chief co-ordinator of the event that took place in Casablanca on 18- 20 April, and strategic develop manager of Casa Events – recalls that the Expo did not just appear “out of nowhere” but is actually the result of extensive pre-project consultations undertaken in advance of the launch of the Grand Casablanca Development Project (PDGC 2015-2020). The participative consultations involved 600 people comprising representatives of public authorities – both national and municipal – and local communities. Together they defined Casablanca’s vocation to be “a smart city in the form of an inclusive African hub that places citizens at its heart and reconnects them with the surrounding environment”, recounts Touda Loufti. “It is not simply a question of the city’s economic development, but of strengthening the city’s identity”, she adds.
Hence the birth of a strategy combining development of inclusive urban public places with new infrastructure, linking in with schemes to boost the city’s stature and attractiveness using an overall approach entitled “We Casa”.
Touda Loufti continues: “The pre-project consultation prior to defining the scope of the PDGC also gave rise to the idea for an annual event to dive deeper into these questions, to exchange ideas and to demonstrate our expertise, for example in field of mobile banking, which is more developed in Africa than in Europe”. Smart City Expo Casablanca has also positioned itself as an inter-continental platform for exchanging ideas “with Asia and Latin America, both close to Africa in terms of demographics” as well as with North America and Europe, which she recognises as “faithful to Casablanca’s tradition of openness to the rest of the world”. As well as the congress and exhibition fair, Smart City Expo Casablanca also included a creative participatory forum on urban mobility called “Creathon” and the “Smart City Hackathon”, enabling participants from the world’s digital industries to find new solutions to urban mobility issues such as traffic congestion and pollution.
Derichebourg: from waste recycling to smart street lighting
Urban services group Derichebourg operates in various Moroccan cities including Rabat, Ifrane and Kenitra, and also holds a transitional 1-year contract for waste collection in Morocco, covering the period until the winning bidder for current tender for ongoing services is announced. “We also have significant operations in the field of public lighting and are replacing traditional bulbs with LED lights, generating savings of up to 30% on energy costs”, explained Thomas Derichebourg, whilst attending the Smart City Expo exhibition fair.
There was plenty of discussion around LED lighting at this year’s Expo in Casablanca. The city of Los Angeles reduced its electricity costs by 9 million dollars per year after investing 55 million dollars. The city of Boston replaced 64,000 old style light points with LED, with full return on the investment in three years. “Alas, France’s aversion to public private partnerships (PPP) explains why LED street lighting has not been very successful in France, despite the fact that PPP financing is ideal for public lighting contracts”, opined one expert at the Expo.
In Agadir, Derichebourg is working to pair LED lighting with monitoring tools that enable the city to define those parts of town that require less street lighting than others. The company also offers wireless solar street lamps using photovoltaic panels for their energy requirements. Thomas Derichebourg affirms: “We are one of Europe’s leading recycling operators” and cites the group’s expertise in end-of-life vehicle recycling. The group is also currently working with aerospace manufacturers to create airplanes whose constituent parts can be reused, which is rarely possible with today’s alloy components.
Africa’s largest theatre designed by Christian de Portzamparc
The largest theatre in Africa, located on Casablanca’s Place Mohammed V and designed by Christian de Portzamparc, will open at the end of 2018. The management of the complex along with its arts and entertainment programming is currently out for tender, although the winning bid has not yet been announced. Covering an area of over 20,000 m2, the complex includes flexible, multidisciplinary indoor performance spaces as well as an outdoor concert arena, shops, restaurants, a library, exhibition spaces and room for cyber-space too.
Casablanca’s healthy real estate market
“The real estate market in Casablanca alone reflects the dynamism of Morocco as a whole.” These are the words of Renaissance urbaine president, Nicholas Buchoud, in his “Casablanca Horizon 2030” report presented at the Expo. Office space orders in the city (i.e. the volume of transactions for sales and rentals of office space) are growing (hitting 37,000 m2 as at end-September 2017). Furthermore, 2016 saw the return of institutional investors, including French group Amundi, which purchased the Atrium building on Casablanca’s Boulevard Abdelmoumen.
Meanwhile Bouygues Immobilier has broken into to the Moroccan market with its “Les Faubourgs d’Anfa” real-estate development in Casablanca Finance City. The mixed development will include retail space at the foot of the buildings, a 17-story tower and 435 fibre optic-connected homes. It will be the first residential project to receive HQE certification (rated ‘Excellent’) in Morocco. Elsewhere, Sogea, a subsidiary of Vinci, has just won the bid to build the new TGV station in the city of Kenitra.
Smart city – Smart nation
Casablanca is the financial capital of a country with the wind in its sails. After the COP22 conference that brought more than 200 countries together in Marrakech in 2016, Morocco will host the first edition of Decathlon Solar Africa in 2019, and in 2018, the Kingdom of Morocco was officially announced as a candidate to host the football World Cup in 2026. The “Casablanca Horizon 2030” co-authored by Renaissance urbaine and Deloitte affirms that: “in terms of transport, the Kingdom is the leader amongst African nations. It has created the continent’s first high speed railway line, has developed tramways and regional train networks in its large cities, modernised its bus network, developed its automobile industry – and included smart infrastructures as part of all this”.
The report goes on to state that: “the challenges for smart cities are now interwoven with the new priorities for sustainable international development, the fight against climate change and the push for green finance”, citing in particular Morocco’s solar power programme and its active implementation of the New Urban Agenda, as evidenced by the Moroccan ministerial presence at the Kuala Lumpur gathering in February 2018.