SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
Urban areas as laboratories for the future
The world is becoming urban – an unprecedented process. Never before have there been as many people living in cities as there are today. More than half of the world’s population already lives in urban centres, and this will rise to around two thirds by 2050. As recently as the middle of the last century, the ratio of urban population to rural population was the direct opposite.
However, cities are getting more than just a proverbial breath of fresh air; there is also waste, air pollution, lack of space, congestion and poverty. Problems combine and multiply in these areas. Nonetheless, the unstoppable process of urbanisation continues. Even Africa will be an urban continent by 2050. At present, its cities are actually seeing the fastest growth of all. For instance, in the sixties, Lagos in Nigeria had a population of around 665,000. By 2000, it was over 8 million, and it had exceeded 20 million by 2017. If the rate of increase remains the same, the figure could multiply further by 2100.
There is a reason for this trend, however. People are less concerned about leading autonomous lives, although that may play a role. More often it is economic advancement that drives them into cities. They seek employment and a livelihood; they want to fulfil their economic potential and better their situation. Cities have always been important marketplaces, vibrant centres and places of progress and innovation. They generate 80% of the world’s economic output. Just 13% of the population of DR Congo lives in Kinshasa, for example, but the city is responsible for more than four fifths of the country’s GDP.
As a result, chaos and opportunity go hand in hand in cities. The major challenge lies in overcoming the former while exploiting the latter, especially as many of the greatest problems facing humanity are concentrated in these places. It is estimated that 65% of the SDGs can only be achieved in the cities. This is why former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon once said that our struggle for sustainability will be won in cities – or lost altogether.
The great opportunity in cities lies in how compact they are. A lot can be achieved within a small area, making sustainable development measures more effective. However, an enormous amount of funding is needed to make the adjustments necessary to create environmentally-friendly, safe and inclusive cities. UN figures indicate that over USD 65 billion will be needed between 2015 and 2030 to make these changes. This amount cannot be provided from public sources alone.
KfW Development Bank is contributing to this mammoth task. It is supporting sustainable mobility projects in India, where it is financing new metro lines in the city of Nagpur and the procurement of 500 electric buses in the state of Tamil Nadu. In Kigali, a new modern district is under construction which combines sustainability with the need to create affordable accommodation for those who are less well-off. KfW also finances water, education and health centres, including in medium-sized cities in Burkina Faso (water), various Latin American cities (education) and numerous cities across Eastern Europe and Central Asia (healthcare).
And because of its crucial role in achieving the SDGs, KfW will remain heavily engaged with the issue of urban development.