Cities are centres of economic growth and opportunity in a globalizing world. At a series of events arranged by CDE involving government, business leaders as well as the public, Harvard Professor Edward Glaeser made a powerful case for cities as the path out of poverty and key to any nation’s growth.
When we compare those countries that are more than 50% urbanised to those countries that are less than 50% urbanised, the more urbanised countries have, on average, incomes that are five times as high and infant mortality levels that are less than a third. Likewise South Africa per capita income in the metros is about 40% higher than in the rest of the country. Importantly, the rate of employment growth in the metros between 1996 and 2012 was more than twice that of everywhere else.
When one looks at the difference in the performance between cities, one need look no further than skills as a key predictor of urban success. This relationship becomes more critical and powerful as density levels increase- in fact, density and skills are complements.
Three elements lie at the heart of effective cities: The magic of economic interaction; Combatting the demons of density; and People and the physical city.
We should recognise the importance of cities for growth, for jobs, for prosperity and we should allow people to exercise choice and move to cities to take advantage of the incredible opportunities that they provide. Phenomenal things have happened when humanity has worked together in cities. Our ability to solve problems collectively is simply incredible. That will not change.