Ahead of the World Economic Forum Annual meeting in Davos, the Global Risks 2015 Report was issued by the organisers. One of the chapters from the report is dedicated to the risks of rapid and unplanned urbanisation in developing countries. The report starts off by reminding us that, by 2050, city dwellers are expected to account for more than two-thirds of the world’s population. It emphasises that urbanisation can bring important benefits for development as cities are an efficient way of organizing people’s lives: they enable economies of scale and network effects, reduce the need for transportation and thereby make economic activity more environment-friendly. However, a large part of the chapter focuses on the need to manage risks in the face of four major challenges: infrastructure, health, climate change and social instability. The rapid expansion of cities, especially in developing countries, requires adequate global infrastructure and here the Report calls for public-private collaboration to involve the private sector in the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure. It emphasises the negative effects of air pollution, mostly caused by cars, to health of citizens. The report also calls for leadership of the private sector with local governments which it considers at the heart of urban mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Finally, the Report states that moving to a city offers individuals more opportunities and improves their living conditions but it also warns that the high costs of living and competition for livelihoods can trap people in poverty and lead to social instability.
As private actors that contribute to building the sustainable cities and infrastructure of tomorrow, we should not be deterred by these risks but consider them as an opportunity to engage on a scale which goes beyond the specific product we produce and makes us reach out to society at large.