Tag Archives: urbanisation

‘Middle Cities’ – Are we forgetting to nurture the engines of our future growth?

Cross-posted from IDS Vulnerability and Poverty blog

By Jaideep Gupte

With the world now mostly urban, nearly 60% of our global GDP is generated in only 600 urban centres. Moreover, large urban centres are quite simply the places where growth has been occurring – this is a function of concentrated economic activity. But this story is really about what is yet to come. For the first time, a country like India, with only a third of its population currently urbanised, which is far less than Brazil (86%) or China (47%), is reporting higher population growth in urbanised areas than across its vast rural landscape. In sub-Saharan Africa, the urban population is projected to double by 2030. This growth can be categorised into two significant trends: just under 30% is projected to occur due to what is classically understood as rural-urban migration. Significantly, the rest will occur due to natural increases in urban population, that is, cities and towns generating their own population growth. National planning bodies also have a say in this when they classify peri-urban or peripheral areas as under municipal administration.

This ‘urban-shift’ is going to require resources at a monumental scale – China for example, predicts it will need $8.1 trillion in new investment by 2020 to accommodate its new urban dwellers. Current rates of investments into infrastructure are falling far behind these levels. And not just in terms of scale, but importantly, also in terms of location: focussing on new or projected population growth, the mega-cities of the developing world are quickly being overtaken by a vast number of small and medium sized urban areas, each numbering approximately 100,000 in population. 

These ‘middle’ cities and towns across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are going to be the main hosts of urban growth. Understandably, these town and cities are also the weakest in terms of human capacity, infrastructure or service provision, and have a very thin local tax-base to use for future investment. Local revenue of most of these municipalities is often less than 1% of their country’s GDP. This has created a critical mismatch across a range of sectors, from basic service provision, law and order, to disaster preparedness, which directly impacts our progress on poverty eradication.

This is the theme of this year’s Global Monitoring Report – Rural Urban Dynamics and the MDGs, which provides an in-depth analysis on urbanisation as a force for poverty reduction and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. I speak with Jos Verbeek, Lead Economist at the World Bank and Manager of the Global Monitoring Report, on what impact urban development has on rural poverty, what roles and responsibilities the private sector has in fostering urban growth, and how ‘middle’ cities can be supported in becoming engines of our future growth.

 Listen to the conversation below:

Slums – a phenomenon or aftermath of Urbanisation?

By Nidhi Batra

Developing world has a new pace and vigour for growth, economic rise and urbanisation. Southern Asia which is about 30% Urban already has its 59% of population in ‘Slums’. This is for sure an indicator that we are NOT PLANNING adequately. Like always, we lack vision and are taking restorative policies and actions to fix the already created ‘problem’ of urban poverty. Cities are now seen as an abode for ‘income’ generation, the opportunities, business, links and networks it offers not just nationally but also internationally is what draws more and more people to cities.


What is also interesting is how each city differs in its role in the larger global setup, the slums too have adopted a unique identity. In an interesting article by Saskia Sassen, she introduces the concept of Global Slum. For example she cites the case of talking with a particular group of garbage pickers in a Buenos Aires slum (Buenos Aires is presently undergoing urban movement for ecology and poverty) , who described themselves as “ecological entrepreneurs”: “Señora, nosotros somos emprendedores ecologicos.” They were poor, tired working men and women who subject their hands to harsh conditions and the risks of cuts and infections. But their awareness of themselves on a larger map than the miseries of the slum allowed them to knowingly present themselves as actors with a positive valence, not merely poor hopeless individuals living in utter misery. All slums tend to have garbage pickers, but most do not have this type of consciousness, and most are so tired and hungry and often ill that they barely survive. It is a certain type of slum that enables this re-positioning. Interestingly, some slums are positioning themselves as actors on global stages, often with distinct political tactics and a sort ofprise de conscience — a growing awareness that they are objects of interest to the media, politicians and a growing range of economic sectors. Catch the article at The Global City And The Global Slum

In another interestingly article, one read of how Slum is synonym with our cities – almost like a symbol or a representative image. The image of the slum has become integral to how we visualise the future of our urban spaces — and as slums increasingly shape projections of the future, two contrasting and forceful images have emerged. How has the slum come to define both an urban utopia and a crisis of modernity? The slum evidently has a dual symbolic function. For some, the future city is defined by the slum; for others, it is defined by its absence. Read the article at The slum as a symbol of our urban future

So how is it that we are visualising these pools of urban poverty, at the same time new entrepreneurs of the city? How it is that planning and civil society should deal with this phenomenon? Are slums only about lack of services or urban poverty has a much larger- hidden dimension to it? Are the urban schemes of our cities equipped to handle this phenomenon? Such are the various questions that need an immediate pondering and discussion..