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Urbanisation and Economic Transformation

Somik Lall's picture

This blog post originally appeared in Ideas for Africa on March 25, 2014.

I was recently invited by the International Growth Center (IGC) to participate in a two day workshop in support of Rwanda’s national forum on sustainable urbanisation (#urbanrwanda) and give a talk on urbanisation, growth and structural transformation. I had never worked in Rwanda before, but this gave me an opportunity to reflect on what it means for a small, landlocked economy, where urbanisation is at an incipient stage (18 percent urban) but picking up speed.

What makes a city competitive?

Megha Mukim's picture

What do the cities Bandung, Bucaramanga, Izmir, Kigali, Patna, and Agadir have in common? They are all cities that have outperformed their national economies and are growing jobs. The World Bank's urban development and private sector development departments are jointly working on a new knowledge base on Competitive Cities. The project includes in-depth case studies of economically successful cities across all continents, beginning with the six listed above. What makes these particular cities so interesting? Read the team's blog to find out. Can you help guide our work? What types of insights and guidance would be helpful to making your city more successful?
 

Detroit’s future city framework offers lessons on resilience

Chisako Fukuda's picture

There is a positive vibe around Detroit today, as the city transforms itself under the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework, a blueprint that will guide decision making and actions to realize a shared vision. In many ways, Detroit embodies the problems of cities around the world – post-industrial decline, deterioration of services, lack of economic opportunities. What can we learn from Detroit’s experience to become more resilient? Dan Kinkead, Director of Projects for the Detroit Future City Implementation Office, shares his insights on moving a legacy city into the future.

You’ve emphasized the importance of participatory planning in developing a framework for Detroit’s future. Why?

Carbon banking helps families reduce CO2 emissions in Gwangju

Chisako Fukuda's picture

Dr. Kwi-gon Kim, February 2014How can green growth policy be translated into local action? The average household has an important role to play, as was demonstrated in Gwangju, a city of 1.5 million people located 270 km south of Seoul. With an ambitious goal to become carbon-neutral by 2050, the city implemented a carbon banking system which encourages households to act green – resulting in 54% of participating households reducing consumption of electricity, gas and water in four years. Dr. Kwi-gon Kim, Professor Emeritus of Urban Environmental Planning at Seoul National University and Secretary General of Urban Environmental Accords Secretariat, who played a key role in launching the program in Gwangju, explains how and what others can learn from the city’s experience to realize green economic development.

Carbon banking doesn’t sound like something families can do. Why are you targeting households?

Cities act on climate change: Thoughts on the C40 Summit in Joburg

Stephen Hammer's picture

If you go to a conference on cities and climate change, you inevitably hear the statement that “countries talk…but cities act”. This message was loud and clear at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last month, where a new report released by the C40 and ARUP detailed the 8000+ initiatives that C40 member cities are undertaking to either reduce GHG emissions or increase their climate resilience. Since the first such report came out in 2011, more cities are reporting on their efforts, and those reporting are doing ever more, expanding the array of initiatives they have launched.

Overcoming fragility: The long and successful journey towards sustainable solid waste management in the northern West Bank

Farouk Banna's picture

Last month, I paid a visit to the Zahrat Al-Finjan landfill located 18 km south of Jenin City in the northern West Bank. I was impressed with the status of solid waste management in this part of the West Bank and inspired by how various local governments were cooperating despite the volatile political environment.


The Zahrat Al-Finjan landfill near Jenin in the West Bank (Photo by Farouk Banna)

When I arrived in Jenin on the morning of January 29, the head of the Joint Service Council (JSC) and his staff welcomed me and took me up to the education center located atop the building. This room provides an extraordinary aerial view of the landfill.

A landfill in every living room

Alison Buckholtz's picture

Candida Brady, producer/director of “Trashed,” on communicating the need for clean-up

Candida Brady thinks everyone should visit a landfill for a day. The producer/director of the 2012 documentary “Trashed” (view trailer), which follows actor Jeremy Irons on a global tour of garbage sites, did just that at the beginning of her quest to understand the toll trash takes on peoples’ health.

Standing amid these mountains of decay is the only way for people to “understand landfills’ smell, and how it makes you feel,” Brady says. “None of us could talk after filming in them and one of my crew members was violently ill after we filmed in the landfill in Lebanon.”

Seoul Goes Local in Development

Sujoyini Mandal's picture

A recent EASIN Urban, Transport and DRM Community of Practice (CoP) meeting I attended in Seoul, South Korea was an eye opener in terms of the rapid urban development of the city of Seoul.  Considered an East Asian tiger, manufacturing and an export-led economy have made Seoul a global city with neon skylines and the new focus of Asia’s technology boom. A presentation by Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), the agency responsible for the city’s urban planning, describes the city as a ‘strategic space for people to reside in since ancient times’. Nevertheless, the city and its urban identity have gone through various transformations – through the Japanese occupation (1910-1945) to restoration after the Korean war (1950-53) to industrialization (1960s-1970s) to development and globalization. In SMG’s words, Seoul is witnessing the ‘environmental and historical awakening as a world city’. Evidence of this was seen in sites I visited to the restored Cheonggyecheon stream and a former landfill converted to Haneul Park.

Tracking light from space: Innovative ways to measure economic development

Megha Mukim's picture

  

One of the most common challenges in economic development is collecting comparable data. The information age is changing that as the diffusion of information technology meets changes in institutional attitudes toward data sharing. New capabilities are meeting old capabilities on our desktop computers and it is leading to some bright ideas in how to measure and evaluate economic development.

The first that comes to mind is nighttime lights imagery – colloquially referred to as nightlight data. Nightlight refers to light resulting from human activity visible from outer space at night.  Astronomers call it light pollution. This is pretty accurate since nightlight is the waste by-product when humans use of energy that is emitted or reflected straight up into the sky – these could be city lights, car headlights, fires, etc.

Bright Lights, Big Cities

Mark Roberts's picture

Delhi night-time lights data imageIf you visit the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., one of the exhibits you’ll come across is a map of the Earth, which shows lights detected by satellites at night. With even a cursory look, it’s clear the lights pick out spatial patterns of urban and economic development.  Look at the USA, and you see the coasts are brightly lit, whereas the country’s interior is much less so.  Look at the Korea peninsula and you see that whilst South Korea is almost ablaze with light, the North is noteworthy for its almost complete absence of light.

The potential ability of night-time lights imagery to detect spatial patterns of urban and economic development has been known in the remote sensing community since the late 1970s.  However, it has only recently been brought to the attention of economists following a paper by Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard and David Weil entitled “Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space.”  This paper alerted economists to the strong correlation between a country’s rate of GDP growth and the growth in intensity of its night-time lights, and the fact that the lights represent (for economists) a relatively untapped dataset with global coverage and a time-series dating back more than twenty years.

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