Sustainable urban development has become a priority for numerous global cities today in search for innovative solutions. However, obstacles such as poor policies, a lack of urban governance, and monitoring mechanisms stand in the way, according to a UN-Habitat report on the future of cities titled “State of the World’s Cities”. Invest-Gate speaks to UN-Habitat Governance and Policy Specialist Victoria Tiemeier about the status of Egyptian cities on UN’s prosperity index.
Approximately 43% of Egypt’s population occupy 223 cities while 56% of the Egyptian population are more centralized in Cairo and Alexandria, according to The Legatum Prosperity Index 2016 data. Urban development, arguably, remains a challenge for the less occupied governorates.
The UN-Habitat initiative, dubbed the City Prosperity Index (CPI), regulates
to what extent a city is considered ‘prosperous’, namely, a measure of the quality of human life. The index measures cities on the prosperity meter using several interlinked factors, including productivity, infrastructure development, quality of life, equity and social inclusion, environmental sustainability as well as urban governance and legislations.
“Cairo measures as moderate on the index given its score of 40 to 60 out of 100 on the index meter, typical for a middle-income country,” UN-Habitat Governance and Policy Specialist Victoria Tiemeier tells Invest-Gate.
Tiemeier states that based on data gathered by the UN Human Settlements Program, Cairo’s prosperity index is solid compared to other cities such as Casablanca, Amman, Johannesburg, Jakarta, Cape Town, Beijing and Bangkok. The relative uptick is attributable to Cairo’s strength in its infrastructure development although the city is rated moderate in productivity and poor in regards to environmental aspects.
“Cairo records strong and best performance on the index, but surprisingly Hurghada also proved a great performance following Cairo based on recent data. Our expectation had been that many governorates in Delta, such as Mansoura, would perform well. However, they held a poor performance on the index, hinting at economic decline,” adds Tiemeier.
Despite Hurghada coming second after Cairo on the index, it has proved to be better than Cairo in economic diversity, education, health, and internet access. Cairo, on the other hand according to Tiemeier, is performing better than Hurghada in mobility and infrastructure.
The CPI initiative further points out the benefits sustainable urbanization presents in coping with future challenges such as climate change, high demand on urban infrastructure, pollution and population growth.
In efforts to fashion sustainable urbanization, several aspects need to be considered, for both Egypt and the international community, including planning and design, urban economy, housing and services, and governance.
“The UN-Habitat Egypt did not gather data on the housing and transportation sector to measure its performance yet, which created a current gap on the index. However, we will soon publish data on additional indicators for the index based on samples taken from 35 cities representing all geographical areas and its economic functions,” says Tiemeier.
Despite moderate performance of Egyptian cities on the index worldwide, Egypt is lacking development in several sectors such as transportation, particularly that linking discrete cities and governorates. Another weakness is the economy, with 90% of Egyptian cities reportedly decaying economically due to the lack of diverse production.
The CPI helps give an indication of what local officials should focus on to tackle the city’s weaknesses, improve policies, and strengthen the cities on the index. “The benefit of the CPI initiative is that it operates as a tool advising policy makers by demonstrating the strong and weak points of different cities in Egypt,” she states. “That means that weak cities on the index, for example, can learn from the best practice performed by stronger cities. On the long run, the index can be used to follow up on the progress of different cities,” elaborates Tiemeier.
The index is also beneficial for establishing principles, tracking progress, and implementing the 2030 development agenda.UN-Habitat provides needed technical assistance such as a systematic approach of the city, benchmarks for local and global monitoring, creating baseline data, establishing a comparability platform, and identifying priorities for urban development.
Egypt is currently endorsing developments, including national projects that would lead to urban development on a level in line with the Egyptian 2030 strategic planning vision, which complies with the “Global Sustainable Development Agenda 2030” of world leaders.
As Egypt remains on track to meeting the 2030 Vision, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi was praised in 2016 by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark for his leadership on Egypt’s plan towards sustainable development strategy, according to a UNDP statement.
“The Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 is a comprehensive agenda highly relevant to the Arab States region. Now the hard work must begin to implement it,” Clark stated at the Arab Ministerial Conference on Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Arab States last April.
Despite the challenging emerging economies face, countries across the MENA region continue to target fostering sustainable urban living matching demands for the coming decade and beyond.