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Challenges

The UN estimates that 55% of the global population lives in urban areas – a figure that is projected to rise to 68% by 2050. Cities are expected to become bigger and more numerous.

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Population Growth
Environment & Resources
Inequality

 Rapid urban population growth 

By 2050 more than two-thirds of the world’s population is projected to be living in urban areas. This rapid increase will take place mainly in developing countries. Africa and Asia— both still less urbanized than other regions— will have the fastest urban growth rates. Africa’s urban population is projected to jump from 40% today to 56% by 2050, and Asia’s from 48% to 64%

 

Environmental threats

Rapid urbanization, coupled with frequent and extreme weather events linked to global climate change is intensifying the impact of environmental threats. Common environmental threats include flooding, tropical cyclones (to which coastal cities are particularly vulnerable) and heat waves

 

Owing to the physical and population density of cities, such threats often result in both devastating financial loss and deaths. Making cities more resilient against these environmental threats is one of the biggest challenges faced by city authorities and requires urgent attention.

Resources

Cities need resources such as water, food and energy to be viable. Urban sprawl reduces available water catchment areas, agricultural lands and increases demand for energy. Better application of technology can boost efficiency however many cities will continue to struggle to provide these resources to an ever-growing urban population.

Beyond these basic requirements, haphazard growth will see the reduction of green spaces within cities, negatively affecting liveability. As fresh water becomes scarce and fertile lands diminish, food prices may escalate, hitting the poorest hardest.

Inequality

When it comes to the provision of basic resources and resilience against environmental threats, the forecast is uneven for different groups of urban inhabitants. As the number of urban super-rich grows, many cities will also see increased numbers of urban poor.

The widening gap between the haves and have-nots will be accentuated in the megacities of the future. Such inequalities, when left unchecked, will destabilize society and upend any benefits of urban development. There is a critical need for policy-makers to ensure that the fruits of progress are shared equitably.

Housing

With increasing population, housing the population with affordable housing will be a continuing to be top issues for cities.

Governance

Future cities offer immense possibilities to enrich the lives of their inhabitants even as the challenges are stark. To make the best out of inevitable urbanization, good governance is imperative. Cities will increase in size and their populations become more diverse. Governing these cities will, therefore, be progressively complex and require the most dedicated of minds.

Increasingly, cities around the world are learning about the best governance and planning practices from one another, even as they remain accountable to their respective national governments. The broad goals of urban governance should address issues of equity, liveability and sustainability in cities of the future.