Creating a more humane face of cities

bogota colombia

21st century marks the first time bulk of human civilization lives in urban settlements rather than in villages. With urban population expected to surpass 80% of the global numbers by 2030, and with human population expected to reach in between 9 and 10 billion by 2050, a few thousand more new cities will have to be added worldwide in order to sustain the population increase, and the subsequent urbanization that follows. Most of the development, meanwhile, is expected to take place in developing countries, either in Africa or in Asia.

Nevertheless, as cities keep on growing, challenges remain. With overall annual incomes and costs of living rising, social inequality will imminently occur. Some people will get rich, and more of them will end up in poverty. In a string of domino effects that follow, shantytowns will form, urban patterns become addle-pate and unpredictable, and population density will spiral out of control. Solutions have been proposed, ranging from acquiring lands and routes to provide greater public access and greenbelt areas for more populace to creating mass transit public transport systems in low costs, but such ideas can only easily apply to new cities which are going to be built in the 50 years to come. And what about those huge cities which have been existent for centuries, complete with all their seemingly unsolvable problems? The challenges get even trickier.

In this TED talk, Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota (1998-2000, pictured above), would like to give his hometown as an example how he could reform, once a sprawling, messy, and seemingly brutal metropolis into one with a more humane face.


We fought not just for space for buses, but we fought for space for people, and that was even more difficult. Cities are human habitats, and we humans are pedestrians. Just as fish need to swim or birds need to fly or deer need to run, we need to walk. There is a really enormous conflict, when we are talking about developing country cities, between pedestrians and cars. Here, what you see is a picture that shows insufficient democracy.What this shows is that people who walk are third-class citizens while those who go in carsare first-class citizens. In terms of transport infrastructure, what really makes a difference between advanced and backward cities is not highways or subways but quality sidewalks.Here they made a flyover, probably very useless, and they forgot to make a sidewalk. This is prevailing all over the world. Not even schoolchildren are more important than cars.

Infographics: 600 cities that will shape the world in 2025

mgi 600 cities



McKinsey Global Institute, one of the world’s most respectable business consulting firms, has actually released this interactive device two years ago, but to date, the database presented is still worth referencing. It includes complete GDP data for 600 cities worldwide (and mostly from developing countries) surveyed in 2010, altogether with their future forecasts in 2025.

As it turns out, most of the 600 cities that will drive future economic growth of the planet are concentrated solely on developing world, with a huge emphasis on major cities around East Asia, particularly China. As many as 216 Chinese cities are included in the list, a few of which may possibly contribute GDP of 1 trillion US$ upwards.

Other than China’s sprawling metropolises? A few hundred less well-known cities, for instance, Chittagong, Huambo, Medan, Vina del Mar, Port Harcourt, Pekanbaru, Kumasi, or Beihai, are also expected to have generated GDP up to 20 billion US$ for each of the cities included, driving the global economic growth not only to a faster pace, but also to a challenging phase many policymakers in Western countries will have to carefully reconsider.

Access more complete data on McKinsey Global Institute.

Get yourself directly to the interactive data set here.

Bonus: the institute even provides a full-version app, with complete data of over 2,600 cities worldwide, available either on iOS or Android. Nevertheless, because the app is easier to download on Apple Store, I will just refer the link instead to the former.