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University of Zimbabwe

Faculty of Social Studies

Department of Rural and Urban Planning


Call for Abstracts




Theme: ‘Developing Sustainable Human Settlements through the Smart Concept: Finding Solutions to Contemporary Urban and Rural Challenges’



After successfully hosting the Second Biennial Symposium on Human Settlements Planning, Development and Sustainability, 12 – 13 June 2018 at the University of Zimbabwe campus in Harare, the organising team is calling for abstracts for the third biennial symposium in June 2020. This is to run under the theme ‘Developing Sustainable African Cities through the Smart Concept: Finding Solutions to Contemporary Urban Challenges.’ The theme is timely given the drive by most African governments, including Zimbabwe, to implement smart city initiatives that address challenges arising from rapid urbanisation and simultaneously promote investment and national economic development.


It has been argued that although the prevailing problems are known, contemporary urban concepts are providing non – responsive and adaptive solutions to urban challenges (Mehaffy and Salingaros 2015). There have been various ideological interpretations and a lot of theoretical models highlighting green, inclusive, safe and resilient motives but the fruits are yet to be tasted. However, each of the theories and models have been more confusing in logic than the other (Allam 2012). Contemporary urban environments are faced with complex wicked problems which require a holistic, trans – disciplinary and participatory approach to deal with them. Such challenges include health issues, traffic congestion, poor and inadequate urban infrastructure, energy and power shortages, inadequate housing, social amenities and services and lack of institutional capacity (Lee et al. 2013, Mattoni et al. 2015, Neirotti et al. 2014).


It has been argued that in contemporary society, technology is the key to finding solutions to a wide variety of wicked problems experienced in cities (Meijer 2017). Many effects have been made but had limited outcomes as the challenges required a holistic approach accompanied by innovation and technology. To manage and solve urban challenges, promote efficiency in infrastructure and service delivery and to revamp city life, there is need to employ smarter strategies (Novotny et al. 2014). This has led to the introduction of the smart city concept as a way of solving urban challenges through digitalisation, intelligent thinking and introduction of smart initiatives (Kumar 2018).


The smart city concept has its origins in the idea of electronic governance (e – governance) which provided the basis for promoting public participation and engagement through bringing all stakeholders together and providing for information and communication through the use of the internet (Kaylor 2005, Satinha and de Castro 2010, Van der Meer and Van Winden 2003). Technological advancements have a transformative impact on urban life and increase the functionality and sustainability of urban systems (Angelidou 2016). This is due to easy access to information promoted by technological advancement.


The smart city concept goes far much beyond the application of technology in urban development and management and is understood differently by various stakeholders. The concept is defined from the perceptions of spatial planners, environmentalists, economists, politicians, infrastructure managers, researchers, and citizens. To urban planners, the smart city concept is taken as an ideology that proffers strategic directions to solve urban problems (Ballas 2013). To the environmentalist, a smart city is one which is characterised by the use of renewable energy, resilience to climate change, low carbon footprint, green buildings, and low energy consumption (Morrison et al. 2017). Regional economists perceive a smart city as a city or region that is competitive, able to attract and retain the essential factors of production for sustainable socio – economic development (Rodriguez – Boliver 2015). Politicians perceive a smart city as a democratic urban governance platform where all citizens have an equal opportunity to participate and their values and interests in the city are equally considered. Infrastructure managers perceive a smart city as a city where infrastructure systems are functionally integrated and centrally monitored for efficiency in the use of resources as well as for security through prompt maintenance (Joshi et al. 2016). To researchers, a smart city is associated with the development of intellectual capacity and generation of knowledge and human capital to stimulate innovations in spatial planning, economy, environmental management, governance, or in any other facet (Picon 2015, Rodriguez – Bolivar 2015, Kumar 2017). Citizens perceive a smart city as that city offering opportunities for smart living characterised by high quality of life, availability of real time data, convenient services, networked infrastructure services, a sense of place, equality, social cohesion, safety, security, and good health (Albino et al. 2015). Thus the smart city has no shared definition but is perceived differently by diverse stakeholders.


In the absence of a universal definition, smart cities are defined by their characteristics. They are characterised by the use of advanced technology, development of a favourable business environment, networking, circulation of information and human and capital development (Angelidou 2016). Such characteristics tend to be found in well managed economies.


Statement of the Problem

While the smart city concept is not new, there has been no scholarly analysis of the fundamental problems requiring smart solutions in African cities. The problem has been compounded by an inadequate understanding of the smart city concept itself. The mere adoption of the concept in African countries such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa, without its contextualisation, has been accompanied by sub – optimal outcomes, for example citizen resistance to the introduction of smart water meters in Harare, Zimbabwe and Cape Town, South Africa. The present call to scholarship, is an attempt to fill that gap towards finding a better conceptual understanding of the smart city in the African context.


Themes in the Debate 

Considering the smart cities agenda of African governments, this call is seeking contributions towards conceptual understanding and innovative solutions that apply the concept to the development of sustainable cities:

  • Spatial planning and management
  • Smart economy
  • Smart environment
  • Smart governance
  • Smart living
  • Smart transportation
  • Smart infrastructure
  • Smart housing
  • Smart land management
  • Smart waste management
  • Smart climate
  • Smart energy
  • Smart disaster risk management
  • Smart ecology


Timelines and Deadlines

  • Call for Abstracts opens on 1 September 2019
  • Deadline for abstract submission 31 October 2019
  • Notification of successful abstracts 30 November 2019
  • Submission of full papers 31 March 2020
  • Convening of Symposium 17 – 19 June 2020
  • Developing book chapters for publication, July – October 2020


Guidelines for developing abstracts and papers

Paper abstracts should be 300 words. Abstracts should be submitted to the following address:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Cc: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Prospective presenters should follow the following guidelines when developing their full papers:

  • Title of the Paper
  • Name of Authors, Institutional Affiliations
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Theoretical framework
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References


The symposium accepts case studies, reviews, original research papers and expert commentaries on some of the issues highlighted in the background to this call for abstracts. Referencing style shall be the Harvard style.


Who is invited to come?

  • Students
  • Policy-makers
  • Civil society
  • International development organisations
  • Academics/researchers
  • Practitioners


Registration for Participation

Registration Fee

  • University of Zimbabwe students and Staff 30 USD
  • Local Institutions and Organisations, Universities and Colleges included: 60 USD
  • International Delegates: 250 USD

Accommodation: Neat and affordable accommodation can be organised by the University for participants

Transport: Participants make own arrangements



  • Allam, Z. 2012. Sustainable Architecture: Utopia or Feasible Reality? Journal of Biourbanism, 2, 47-61.
  • Albino, V. Berardi, U. and R. M. Dangelico 2015. ‘Smart Cities: Definitions, Dimensions, Performance and Initiatives,’ Journal of Urban Technology, 22(1), 3 – 21.
  • Angelidou, M. 2016. ‘Four European Smart City Strategies,’ International Journal of Social Science Ballas, D. 2013. “What Makes a ‘Happy City’?” Cities 32: 1, S39–S50.
  • Joshi, S. Saxema, S. and T. S. Godbole. 2016. ‘Developing Smart Cities: An Integrated Framework,’ Procedia Computer Science, (Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Advances in Computing and Communications), 93, 902 – 909.
  • Kaylor, C H. 2005. E-government. The next wave of e-government: The challenges of data architecture. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 31(2), 18–22
  • Kumar, T. M. V. (ed.) 2017. Smart Economy in Smart Cities: International Collaborative Research: Ottawa, St. Louis, Stuttgart, Bologna, Cape Town, Nairobi, Dakar, Lagos, New Delhi, Varanasi, Vijayawada, Kozhikode, Hong Kong. Springer Singapore (Advances in 21st Century Human Settlements).
  • Lee, J.H., Phaal, R., and S. H. Lee. 2013. An integrated service-device-technology roadmap for smart city development. Technol. Forecast. Soc. Chang. 80 (2), 286–306.
  • Mattoni, B., Gugliermetti, F., Bisegna, F., 2015. A multilevel method to assess and design the renovation and integration of smart cities. Sustain. Cities Soc. 15, 105–119.
  • Mehaffy, M. W. and N. Salingaros. 2015. Design for a Living Planet. Nepal: Vajra



  • Meijer, A. 2018. ‘Datapolis: A Public Governance Perspective on “Smart Cities”, Perspectives on Public Management and Governance, 1(3), 195 – 206.
  • Morrison, M. Srinivasan, R. S. and C. Dobbs. 2017. ‘Smart Ecology of Cities: Integrating Development Impacts on Ecosystem Services for Land Parcels,’ In: H. Song et al. (eds.), Smart Cities: Foundations, Principles and Applications. New York: Wiley and Sons, 209 – 241.
  • Neirotti, P., De Marco, A., Cagliano, A.C., Mangano, G., and F. Scorrano. 2014. Current trends in smart city initiatives: some stylised facts. Cities 38, 25–36.
  • Novotný, R., Kuchta, R., Kadlec, J., 2014. Smart city concept, applications and services. J.Telecommun. Syst. Manag. 3 (2), 117.
  • Picon, A. 2015. Smart Cities: Theory and Criticism of a Self-Fulfilling Ideal – AD Primer, New York: John Wiley and Sons.
  • Rodriguez-Bolivar, M. P. 2015. Transforming City Governments for Successful Smart Cities, Switzerland, Springer.
  • Santinha, G., and E. A. De Castro. 2010. Creating more intelligent cities: The role of ICT in promoting territorial governance. Journal of Urban Technology, 17(2), 77–98.
  • Van der Meer, A., and W. Van Winden. 2003. E-governance in cities: A comparison of urban information and communication technology policies. Regional Studies, 37(4), 407–419.


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