Actors converged in Quito this week for Habitat III – the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. With the global population expected to double by 2050, the New Urban Agenda was adopted in a bid to tie urbanisation to development on sustainable and inclusive terms.
The impacts of globalisation and increasing connectivity are shaping the challenges and opportunities facing cities in developing countries. Meanwhile the stark costs of neglecting inclusive growth have never been so apparent. As concerns of global insecurity and increased migration flows frequently bring world leaders together to discuss potential solutions, understanding how urban centres in developing countries can cope with the pressures of rapid growth is critical.
Sustainability means that cities must be able to mobilise sufficient resources over time and create jobs for the people who live and move there. Only then can the prospect of continued urbanisation become an asset for developing countries and only then will dependence between donors and aid recipients end.
In order for this to happen cities need to be developed not just as smart cities but as productive cities, and technological innovation is certainly one of the greatest vehicles for helping countries leapfrog high cost barriers of the past. They must mark out their comparative advantage and leverage it to create hubs of industry and activity that will support their growing populations. Following the WTO meeting in Geneva last month focused on inclusive trade, the continued opening up of markets must also be advanced to ensure these hubs can tap into global markets.