The urban population of middle-income countries will swell in the coming decades—from 2.6 billion today to 4.3 billion by 2050. Over the same timeframe, the urban share of middle-income country residents will rise from just over 50 percent to nearly two-thirds. The urban population of South Africa is expected to grow by 14 million; Brazil by 35 million; Nigeria by more than 200 million; China by 270 million; and India by an astonishing 394 million—90 times the population of metropolitan Johannesburg.2 Under plausible assumptions about the ultimate share of the global population that will live in cities, it appears that what is left of global urbanization will mostly run its course during the 21st century. The UN estimates that the world’s urban population will grow to 6.3 billion by 2050.3 This number could reach 9 billion one hundred years from now, at which point urban population growth will begin to level off. Our choices in the intervening period will permanently shape the world’s cities, having lasting impacts on the lives of urban dwellers for many generations to come. Whether driven by natural population increase or rural-to-urban migration, the collaborative potential of growing cities can offer billions of people opportunities to improve their lives. This essay will focus on the opportunities for low-income residents of growing cities in middle-income countries (MICs). MIC urbanization is important in part because the majority of the world’s poor—79% of the people below the $2 per day per capita poverty line—live in MICs.4 While this does not negate the issue of poverty in low-income countries (LICs), it is a reason for optimism. MICs have, by definition, greater domestic resources with which to address poverty. Increasingly, reducing poverty in MICs will mean facilitating opportunity in growing cities. There is much that governments can do to facilitate urban opportunity. This essay is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Instead, it focuses on obstacles to opportunity for the urban poor in land, housing, and labor markets. What follows is a set of principles for reducing barriers to opportunity for the urban poor. Many of the principles below apply to cities around the world, whether they are located in high, middle, or lowincome countries. Though fiscal resources vary dramatically across the globe, all governments face capacity constraints. Understanding where policy interventions are actually depriving the urban poor of opportunities is the first step toward better channelling public resources in pursuit of prosperity for all. For many middle and low-income countries, a key urban policy challenge is that of population growth. Compared to high-income countries, both low and middle-income countries face much faster rates of urban population growth. Between 2015 and 2020, the urban populations of low-income and middleincome countries are expected to grow at rates of 3.6% per year and 2.1%, respectively. This compares to an expected growth rate of just 0.6% high-income countries over the same period.5 At these rates, urban populations in high-income countries will double every 120 years, compared to every 35 years for middle-income countries.
This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.