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Experts say the developing world is seeing rapid, unstructured and unregulated urbanisation, and this requires planning to balance the competing pressures

Infrastructure is vital to the successful growth of sustainable cities, says John Hughes, newly inaugurated president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

“We must develop more commercially innovative approaches to delivering projects that are affordable and on time,” says Hughes. “To meet this challenge the shortage of skills and capacity must be addressed together with the rights of land owners, and others who are affected by projects. The institution has a public interest perspective and provides international standards that increase transparency which, together, can help to balance the needs of different groups.”

Regarding Africa, James Kavanagh, director of the institution’s land group, recently said the developing world is undergoing a revolution in rapid, unstructured and unregulated urbanisation as rural populations flock to growing mega-cities, looking to access better education, health care and employment.

Adds TC Chetty, the institution’s SA country manager: “In many ways, some developing countries are becoming victims of their own economic success with new opportunities for their populations, increased agricultural productivity and better infrastructure. This is across the board of health, social care and education, transport, energy and telecommunications.

“However, with urban growth comes pressure: on scarce resources; on creaking urban systems – including waste and transport; on health care; on land and property – formal and informal; and on energy supply.

“These pressures are not just applicable to the developing world but also to the developed. So how are we, as professionals, going to help our urban spaces deal with this potent brew of competing interests and pressures?

“Climate change resilience, affordable and sustainable housing, and appropriate building standards also have to be brought into the mix. Urban areas can be epicentres of far-reaching change, whirlwinds of activity and learning, and drivers of change. But if they’re uncontrolled, they can also act as a distillation of significant risk and potential instability.”

By the numbers

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says the figures regarding urbanisation speak for themselves; 

● In 1950, less than 30% of the world’s
population lived in urban areas. This figure
has already passed the pivotal 50% mark.
In 2050, city dwellers will account for more
than two-thirds of the world’s population. 

● Africa and Asia will be the fastest
urbanising regions, so that by 2050, 56% of
Africans will live in towns compared with
40% today, and 64% of Asians (48% today). 

● The Programme for Infrastructure
Development in Africa estimates Africa will
need to invest up to $93 billion a year until
2020 for both capital investment and maintenance
in emerging and developing economies.
Currently only $45bn is financed,
which leaves an infrastructure gap of $48bn
a year.

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