© Alex Jodoin

How do we prevent segregation in metropolitan centres that drive growth and the creation of wealth? This is the central issue for cities that aim to be not only “smart” but also inclusive, sustainable, and resilient.

Home to only 20% of the population, the world’s 300 largest metropolitan centres account for nearly half of global output. Over the past 15 years, metro centres have generated more than 60% of jobs in advanced economies; as a result, household income is 18% higher than elsewhere.

While large cities around the world are synonymous with growth and wealth, their economic and social resources are unevenly distributed, with high poverty rates concentrated mainly in metro areas in the South. Moreover, even highly developed cities struggle with growth inequalities, which lead to dramatic patterns of segregation.

In light of the demographic push toward cities, of the alarming increase in urban pollution and the generalised shortage of public funding, the question of social inclusion in cities has become a recurring issue. This is reflected in the United Nations’ 11th sustainable development goal and was the focus of its Habitat III conference in Quito in October 2016 as well as that of the Cities for Life forum in Paris in November 2016.

Through multiple levers for action, we must make cities citizen-centric.

Through multiple levers for action – for example, political and economic initiatives, social policy, and citizen involvement – and beyond cultural factors and local realities, we need to make cities citizen-centric in all of their constituent parts, including education, culture, employment, mobility, healthcare, technology, gender issues, and social life.

“Inclusive,” “sustainable,” “resilient” – cities and their desirable attributes are the focus of discussion worldwide. Cities are under intense scrutiny as scientific studies focus on benchmarks such as their per capita GDP, power of attraction, access to services, use of banking resources, growth in household spending, well-being, and professional development opportunities for residents. A ranking of major African cities (with population exceeding a million) already exists with regard to inclusive growth potential.