Building better cities: inclusive growth

10 December 2015

Reflecting on the recent publication of Building Better Cities, launched in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 CEO Summit, one set of findings shone through for city managers world-wide: the priority accorded to supporting inclusive growth.

The study itself focuses on the role urban centres play in the context of APEC’s economic and social growth, and also looks at the cities’ growing influence outside their borders through three lenses: how they fare in basic city development, what differentiates them and the hindrances they face to growth. Toronto, Vancouver and Singapore emerged as the top three cities in APEC in which to live and do business (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1: Top 10 city rankings    

Building better cities - Top 10

It is important to note, particularly in an Asian context, that the top cities overall are not necessarily the top performers in the economics category (with Singapore and Tokyo being two notable exceptions): economic growth should not come at the expense of liveability and sustainability.

Indeed, when asked which factors are key for inclusive growth in the region, almost all CEOs point at expanded access to high-quality education and the upgrade of transport systems. Other important areas include greater economic incentives for savings and access to financial services, better access to health care and more reliable access to power and electricity.

Businesses can and should play a key role in addressing all these challenges, but real progress needs businesses working collaboratively with governments, universities and NGOs to spur global competitiveness and continual innovation.

This underlines the power of collaboration in delivering sustainable city competitiveness, as we found in our iUrban report. Collaboration is the glue that brings sustainable competitiveness projects together, while multiple stakeholder collaboration is a key success factor for delivering transformational projects, which is a feature of sustainably competitive cities (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The enablers of collaboration

Building better cities - Collaboration
On many occasions, city councils are the facilitators of broader collaborations. Indeed, in the most successful transformational city projects we have analysed, leadership is distributed across multiple organisations. These leaders need to co-operate closely to make sustainable competitiveness visions happen:

  • Private sector involvement, ranging from small entrepreneurs to large transnational corporations. Many organisations in the private sector are increasingly ready and willing to invest in their urban environments to the benefit of their core strategies and profit, in a ‘shared value’ fashion.
  • University involvement, including educational and research institutes. The performance of cities increasingly relies on their educational and research backbone, and the other way around as well. Knowledge institutes increasingly see cities as a research subject in its own right, and cities can benefit from their problem-solving capacity.
  • Citizen involvement. Involving citizens to the full often results in ‘unusual suspects’ getting involved, bringing novelty and identifying previously hidden problems and opportunities.
  • Not-for-profit involvement. Involving not-for-profits and NGOs can act as brokers, with a degree of independence to carry projects through and to encourage the right partnerships.

Collaboration is not easy. It requires trust, mutual understanding and the flexibility and capacity to try out new approaches. However, it is worth the effort and is pivotal for the sustainable competitiveness of cities.

Hazem Galal  | Cities & Local Government Sector Global Leader
Profile | Email |  +971 2 6946888


Nick C Jones | Director of PwC's Public Sector Research Centre
Profile | Email | +44 (0) 207 213 1593


More articles by Nick C Jones


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