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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 – waste, a lack of space, congested roads, air pollution and poverty are frequent problems that especially affect urban 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 has almost reached 15 million as of 2021. The figure could multiply further by 2100.

There are simple explanations for this. It is not the chance to lead autonomous lives that attracts people to cities, although that may play a role. More often, it is economic advancement that drives them into these urban areas. 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 18% 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. 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 great deal can be achieved within these small areas, 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. According to the UN, more than USD 65 trillion will be required between 2015 and 2030. This amount cannot be provided from public sources alone.

KfW Development Bank is contributing to this mammoth task. Along with sustainable transport projects, it is also working to support climate-adapted urban development and projects focused on improving water quality, education and health – always with the goal of helping to create the liveable cities of the future.

In 2020, KfW Development Bank’s commitments for projects aimed at achieving SDG 11 were worth EUR 4.2 billion. Among other things, this will help to deliver sustainable urban transport systems for over 2.3 million people, as well as around 15,000 new and upgraded homes. And because of its crucial role in helping to achieve the SDGs, KfW will continue to remain engaged on the issue of sustainable urban development.

Development Finance Forum 2018 on the topic of sustainable mobility

D+C Supplement on the topic of sustainable mobility (PDF, 3 MB, non-accessible)

D+C Supplement on the topic of urban development (PDF, 3 MB, non-accessible)

SDG 11 on the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) website (German only)

“Improving car traffic management”

Interview with transport expert Professor Barbara Lenz on the future of mobility and why it is so difficult to switch to sustainable solutions.

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Urbanisation in South Africa: mobility in Johannesburg

What challenges does progressive urbanisation pose for infrastructure and mobility?

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KfW's contribution to SDG 11

  • school


    Securing schools and hospitals against earthquakes

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  • Green City Kigali


    A green district for Kigali

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  • Cycle path


    Promoting sustainable urban traffic

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  • documents

    Development Research

    Sustainable construction – Foundation for climate-friendly urbanisation

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Urban development

Managing urban growth

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Sustainable mobility concepts

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Serbia: More light, lower costs

KfW supports conversion of street lighting to LED

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More climate protection and traffic safety

KfW supports expansion of Mumbai Metro

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