Cities have never been more important for human well-being and economic prosperity. Half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, while about 80 per cent of the world’s output is produced in cities. And it is expected that the vast majority of all new jobs will be urban. These will provide incomes to billions and raise hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
South Africa’s situation is similar, with economic growth being disproportionately generated in the biggest cities, and a growing proportion of people living in urban areas. However, only 60 per cent of the country is currently urbanised, suggesting more urbanisation is to come. If the next wave of city growth is managed well, it can accelerate economic growth and job creation, and improve people’s quality of life.
This is what well-managed cities do: they raise incomes by making people more productive and creating opportunities that cannot exist anywhere else. Historically, urbanisation has been linked with industrialisation, which has both facilitated cities’ growth and depended on it. Cities have also made possible the efficient delivery of all kinds of services — energy, water, health, education, finance, logistics, media, transport, etc.