Urbanization is one of the major forces shaping the 21st century - right up there with the digital technology revolution and globalization. Over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and as the 2014 UN World Urbanization Prospect noted: “The continuing urbanization and overall growth of the world’s population is projected to add 2.5 billion people to the urban population by 2050,” with the proportion of the population living in urban areas increasing to 66 percent by 2050.
Just about every study that’s benchmarked the competitiveness of major urban areas ranks London, - along with New York, - as the world’s two top cities. But despite, - or perhaps because of, - their leadership positions, both cities face major challenges as they deal with economic growth and a growing population.
London has been much in the news lately. First came the election of Sadik Khan last May, - the first Muslim mayor not only of London but of a major Western capital, followed by the recent Brexit referendum, where London voted to Remain in the EU by an overwhelming 60% of its vote while the UK as a whole voted 52% to Leave.
At this point, it’s very hard to predict where Brexit is heading over the next few months, let alone what it’s long term consequences might be. But, given its many strengths I have little doubt that London will remain among the world’s very top cities. So, let me put Brexit aside for the moment and discuss instead what London has been doing to address its major population and economic challenges.