A century ago, only 10 percent of us lived in cities. According to the UN, 55 percent of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, a figure projected to increase to 68 percent by 2050. What does that mean for cities in the Arab world, and political and economic life in the future?
In the past, discussions on urbanization were often peppered with negative images of grossly overpopulated cities, endless grids of steel, concrete and glass, polluted, crime-infested and claustrophobic. This hysteria was not far-fetched given the dangerous levels of smog and pollution in New Delhi, Cairo and Beijing, some of the densely populated cities projected to keep growing well into 2050. Fortunately, for other countries experiencing population growth and expanding urban areas elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, such outcomes can be avoided. With careful planning and sustained efforts at curbing pollution, growing urban areas can be a positive and generous contributor to economic wealth.
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