‘The Inclusive City’ is a Gateway to Inclusive Growth

On May 1st and 2nd, the Institute for Business in the Global Context at the Fletcher School and the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth will be co-hosting ‘The Inclusive City’.  Through this forum, stakeholders from 14 countries will explore the state of the urban experience, particularly for the poor, and explore real solutions that deliver inclusive growth.

As a case in point, the population of Sub-Sahara Africa is approaching a billion, growing by 2.4% a year. And according to UN estimates, 60% of its population will be living in cities by 2050, almost doubling today’s 36%. It is not an exaggeration to say that to a large extent the future of this region will be determined in it cities. Therefore, getting urbanization right is critical.

Cities today serve as gateways for inward investment and knowhow, and to access global markets. But, urbanization can unfold in one of two ways; inclusively or exclusively. In inclusive urbanization, a city’s critical mass offers the scale and scope for the flows of knowledge and capital to generate ever-expanding opportunities for local entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow and compete, stimulating wealth creation that is widely shared. This empowers a growing middle class and makes the urban consumer market dynamic and resilient. In exclusive urbanization, most of the wealth generated is captured by the elite with the majority left behind in an informal economy, stuck in sprawling slums, and excluded from most urban services and facilities. The result is poverty, over-crowding, and eventually a bottleneck to growth.

In the 2013 African Cities Growth Index, which measures the trajectories of cities’ dynamism in inclusive growth over the next five years, the top ranked city is Accra in Ghana. Accra is not the most populous (which is Lagos), and it is not the richest (which are Johannesburg and Cape Town), and it is not situated in the best resource-endowed country (which is Nigeria). Accra is the top ranked city in Sub-Sahara Africa because of progress that it has made in inclusive urbanization.

The findings of the Index are an affirmation of the importance of advancing individual freedom and protecting their rights in economic development.  They are also an indicator of the importance of the ‘The Inclusive City’ as a means for delivering sustainable and equitable economic growth and inclusion for more people around the world.