非洲大陆的人口多达9.55亿人，是仅次于亚洲的世界第二大人口密集大陆。与其他各大洲的居民相比，他们正在经历速度更快的城市化进程。尽管超过半数的非洲人仍然生活在贫困线以下，但按照德克萨斯大学（University of Texas）教授，也是《非洲崛起》（Africa Rising）一书的作者维贾伊•马哈扬的估测，约有35%的非洲人已迈入中产阶级。
今天，非洲大陆上人口逾百万的城市已经有37座。约有41%的非洲人居住在城市里，而据为联合国（the United Nations）所做的一份报告预测，到2020年，将有超过半数的非洲人在城市安家。这些人之所以迁往城市，是因为他们希望获得比在乡村和农场更高的安全感和更好的发展机会。但是他们往往发现，城市并没有做好准备来满足他们的基本需求，比如洁净的饮水和烹煮食物的燃料。
代表全球通讯业利益的全球移动通信系统协会（Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA)称，各家无线通讯公司将在未来5年内在撒哈拉以南非洲地区投资500亿美元。一项由GSMA和德勤公司（Deloitte）联合开展的研究估测，在发展中国家，移动通讯渗透率每增加10%，其国内生产总值（GDP）年增长率就可提高1.2%。移动通讯渗透率是指拥有移动通信覆盖并直接联接到移动通讯系统的人数。
The urbanization of Africa offers great hope for hundreds of millions of people -- if the infrastructure can keep up. And technology holds huge promise to make building that infrastructure faster and more efficient.
The 955 million people in Africa -- the world's second most populous continent after Asia -- are urbanizing more rapidly than residents of any other region. While more than half Africa's population lives below the poverty line, an estimated 35% have entered the middle class according to University of Texas Professor Vijay Mahajan, author of the book, Africa Rising.
Today there are 37 cities on the African continent with more than one million people. An estimated 41% of the people in Africa live in cities and, by 2020 more than half will, according to estimates done for the United Nations. Those people are moving to the continent's cities because they expect more security and better opportunities than they have in rural villages and farms. But often they find that cities aren't prepared to provide basic needs like clean water and fuel for cooking.
Establishing an infrastructure that will allow newly arrived settlers to thrive and become more productive is a key responsibility for the leaders of those cities and nations.
While infrastructure in most African cities is adversely inadequate, public and private sector leaders have an opportunity to build basic water systems, electricity grids and traffic control systems that will be much more efficient and less energy intensive than the aged infrastructure in developed parts of the world. Technology such as electronic sensors and controls would permit variable pricing for power and finely-tuned measures of water consumption. Smart transit systems could manage traffic far more efficiently than the massive road and parking-lot systems required by vehicles in the U.S., for example.
And Africa is already moving rapidly in one key infrastructure area: communications.
Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) -- which represents the interests of the global communication industry -- says wireless companies will invest $50 billion in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years. A GSMA and Deloitte study estimates that an increase of 10% in mobile penetration -- the number of people who have mobile coverage and are directly connected to the mobile system -- can increase the annual GDP growth rate up to 1.2% in a developing country.
The wireless communications revolution is coming at a turning point in Africa's transition to urban life and a modern economic system. By bypassing the need to build extensive physical infrastructure, wireless telecommunications promise the fastest payback and quickest route to improved productivity of any technology. Cellular networks and eventually wireless broadband promise communications, information, education and finance connectivity that bypass costly physical connections.