In policy circles the challenges associated with Africa’s unfolding urban transition is typically reduced to the need for infrastructure to ensure effective urban management. However, what is meant by urban infrastructure, what is the scale of the deficits and how these can be financed, are often obscured.
There is one piece of data that everyone knows. In the world, the urban population has exceeded the rural population and the United Nation’s World Urbanization Prospects 2018 revision estimates that by 2050 this percentage will have risen to 68%, with the proliferation of megalopolises, especially in countries with emerging economies. Since 2050 is still a long way away, hearing this information is not something that gets us particularly excited.
Pliny the Elder wrote it first and it is still confirmed today: something new always comes from Africa (ex Africa semper aliquid novi).
Cities nowadays form a global urban system, deeply interconnected, and play an increasing role in the economic, environmental, and social level. As urban development is unfolding and developing, the cities as a global phenomenon, i.e. global cities, represent at the same time a formidable sustainability challenge and a priceless source of opportunities.
Since the Brundtland Report coined the notion of "sustainable development" in 1987, global agendas under the auspices of the United Nations have made extensive use of it turning it into one of the most recurrent commonplaces of international policy. To what extent has it become a truth-generating concept?
While investments in the West fluctuate due to economic uncertainties, a strong urbanization trend is consolidating worldwide, and this requires a clear vision of necessary works and interventions in various sectors: transportation, both urban and extra-urban, civil and commercial; energy; connectivity and communication networks; housing and building. Thanks to technological innovation, services to citizens improve, the economy grows, environmental impact and social inequalities decrease.
We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it. Stephen Hawking – The Guardian
What the future holds is, alas, obvious to everyone: a crowded planet and even more crowded cities. It is a vision that highlights the importance of infrastructure and its role in making cities safe, healthy, and productive places to live and work.
As a strong urbanization trend is consolidating worldwide, cities – “global” cities in particular – are playing an increasingly important role in the economic, infrastructural, and social development of countries and regions. This trend, however, also brings with it new problems: from the social inclusion and mobility of a growing number of citizens, to the environmental impact of cities that face the challenges posed by a rapid, and at times chaotic urbanization.
Circular economy is a complex concept, holding a potential that governments and practitioners are increasingly trying to unlock. More than 100 definition have been counted (Kirchherrc et al., 2017)1; and around 400 scientific papers are available on the subject to date (Korhonen et. Al, 2018)2, while the two editions of the World Circular Economy Forum have already gathered 1000+ expert from 100+ countries in Finland and Japan.
Cities are complex systems with millions of moving parts and many concentrated risks. Their complexity and scale makes them vulnerable to disruptions—and when bottlenecks or bigger disasters strike, the ripple effects and economic losses can quickly spiral.
One of Umberto Eco's memorable pieces, the ones that typically exemplified both his brilliance and his veneration of his own wit, bore the title "Are people bad for television?"