The Road to Building Inclusive Cities

This post is part of our Re-imagining Cities discussion series, following the third edition of the NewCities Summit in Dallas in June 2014.

Hailing from four continents, the six city chiefs on the closing panel each addressed the biggest challenges they envisage for inclusive cities today and tomorrow.

Mayor Mpho Franklyn Parks Tau stressed that his prime concern is the 25 per cent poverty rate in Johannesburg. Reversing the kind of historically deep-seated deprivation in his city and country was a tall order, to say the least. Tau was encouraged by the Digital Ambassadors Program initiative that instructs various residents how to use the Internet and even includes a rollout installation of Wi-Fi hotspots. Tau admitted to being buoyed by the predictions that the program could reach as many as 40,000 people in the next two years.

The Mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, admitted to being most troubled by citizen apathy. He also addressed the high figure of 24 per cent of Dallas’ population reportedly living below the poverty line. In tandem, he acknowledged the direct relationship between the growing economic gap amongst his city’s population and the education system.

I’m very direct with various business groups, telling them that they need to give something back in the direction of schools – Betsy Price, Mayor of Fort Worth

Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth echoed Rawlings’s focus on education. Without an educated city population, Price warned, a city will have a tough time attracting employers. An advocate of the importance of public education, Price implored the audience to be involved in the educational development of their cities. She made the same plea-demand of business groups as well. “A city cannot do everything,” was Price’s cautionary word. “I’m very direct with various business groups, telling them that they need to give something back in the direction of schools.”

Colombo’s mayor, A.J.M. Muzammil, admitted that his major challenge is a nation-wide need for housing. He had the numbers readily at his disposal: 65,000 homes are needed immediately. Though Colombo is a well-situated port city, the country still is reeling from a 30-year old war. He urged everyone to pay attention not just to inequalities within cities, but the inequalities that exist between global cities. He agreed wholeheartedly that citizen apathy and education are two major priorities, whilst arguing that what is even more unsettling is the explosively rapid growth of Colombo. “As a result, so much of the population is living in highly underserviced settlements,” he warned. Muzammil admitted that he felt a pang of jealousy being in Dallas, since his own people “are not getting nearly the same benefits as one might have here.” He stressed that in Colombo, the biggest needs are much more basic. “We need help in two key areas: Housing and solid waste management.”

When I re-imagine Harare, I imagine a city with a citizenry that is more engaged in the city – Bernard Manyenyeni, Mayor of Harare

For Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni, one of Harare’s primary concerns is water. He stressed the urgent need to double the city’s water supply and help his citizens understand how important it was to control the litter and garbage of their city. His biggest challenge is the sheer size of his city’s population – as one-third of the country’s populace has crowded into his city – which has put a strain on funding for the basic projects he needs done. “Harare is a very beautiful city and I think we’re doing okay on education, on crime, and on health,” he said. “What I do worry about is water and the terrible inequality issue. When I reimagine Harare, I imagine a city with a citizenry that is more fully engaged in the city.”

 I want citizens that are active in their cities, in their neighborhoods – Juan Carlos Izagirre, Mayor, Donostia – San Sebastian

San Sebastian’s mayor, Juan Carlos Izagirre, took on a more philosophical approach towards his city, wondering what was the best way to build it – from the bottom-up, or from top-down. “I want citizens that are active in their cities, in their neighborhoods”. He emphasized that it is up to local governments to encourage citizen participation. “It’s a mistake for politicians to be afraid of having people get organized,” he said.

When it comes to a model for intra-city cooperation, Dallas and Fort Worth seemed to be the panel’s standard bearers. Yet it was Mayor of Johannesburg who summed up the spirit of the session in one word. “When I think about the cooperation and collaboration between Dallas and Fort Worth, Mayor Tau’s word, ‘coopertition’ – a combination of cooperation and competition – well, that says it all,” affirmed Mike Rawlings.

Inclusive Cities – John Rossant (moderator), Mpho Franklyn Parks Tau, Mike Rawlings, Betsy Price, A.J.M. Muzammil, Bernard Manyenyeni, Juan Carlos Izaguirre – © NewCities/Rex C Curry


Moderated by: John Rossant, Founder and Chairman, NewCities