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5  Cities in the global transformation process

5.7.5 Urban transformation towards sustainability The example of Kigali illustrates the complex challenges of rapid informal urbanization (Figure 5.7-9). Despite its poor starting conditions, the city has developed peacefully and with more economic stability than comparable cities, even though some fundamental problems still exist in the field of urban development. For example, the lack of waste- and sewage-disposal structures causes environmental problems which, if no countermeasures are taken, could worsen further if urban growth continues. Economic progress has been accompanied by an extremely unequal distribution of income. The national government is currently seeking to turn Kigali into a ‘Green Business Hub’ by growing a knowledge-based economy that makes higher incomes possible for larger sections of the population. Because Kigali is today considered to be less prone to corruption than many other cities, it has become more attractive for foreign direct investment. In the education sector, too, good basic conditions have been created. School-enrolment rates in Rwanda are the highest in Africa. Almost all children receive a basic education, and progress has also been made in the field of higher education in recent years (UNICEF, 2015). Nevertheless, it remains unclear how the desired transformation towards a sustainable city with a vibrant economy can be achieved, and whether this corresponds to the wishes of the Rwandan population – or whether it will remain a vision of and for elites. While a repetition of ethnic violence has been prevented by authoritarian structures and state control, and economic growth has been promoted by various reforms, it is questionable whether, without stimuli from a critical civil society, there will be sufficient innovative potential in the long term to achieve a transformation towards a liveable city for all residents.

5.8 São Paulo: the fragmented metropolis


In Brazil, in addition to innovative urban-planning approaches at the local level, there is an intensive debate on urban issues and possible solutions at the national level. Parallel to this, many powers have been transferred to the municipalities to enable them to shape their development independently. With approx. 20 million inhabitants, São Paulo is the largest metropolitan region in both South America and the Southern Hemisphere, and it faces the task of mastering the typical challenges of a megacity in an emerging economy. The text of this Section 5.8 was taken in abbreviated

form from the WBGU-commissioned expertise by Coy and Töpfer (2015) with the consent of the authors.

5.8.1 Structure and changes of a megacity Although São Paulo was founded in the mid-16th century at the beginning of the Portuguese colonial period, the process of becoming an actual city and expanding further did not begin until the final decades of the 19th century. This was a result of the rapid increase in the importance of coffee cultivation in the region between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in the course of the 19th century, which started the expansion into the hinterland of today’s federal state of São Paulo. Exports of coffee were to become the economic base of the city, the region and the nation for decades to come. On the threshold of the 20th century, São Paulo – which had been a small town in the hinterland just a few years earlier – became a major city. It reached its first million inhabitants in the 1930s. There was a direct connection between coffee cultivation and urban development in more ways than one. On the one hand, the owners of the coffee plantations increasingly invested the capital generated by agricultural production and exports in the city of São Paulo’s industrial sector (e.  g. the textile industry), which was emerging at the beginning of the 20th century (Novy, 2001). On the other hand, the coffee boom in the hinterland was connected with the expansion of the infrastructures (especially the railways) which converged in São Paulo to allow exports via the port of Santos. Immigration An important aspect is the influx of especially Italian immigrants, who initially worked as day labourers and tenants on the coffee plantations, but increasingly also migrated directly into the growing city. São Paulo developed rapidly into the Brazilian model of a ‘melting pot’, in which different immigrant groups came together and also increasingly shaped the city socio-spatially (­Bernecker et al., 2000). Right up to the present day, São Paulo remains the most multicultural city in Brazil. There have also been waves of immigration in recent years, for example the Koreans, who are gradually taking over the (partly informal) textile industry in the districts near the centre, or the Bolivians and Peruvians, who immigrate into the Brazilian economic metropolis – often with unregulated status – and try to secure their livelihood with informal employment there, e.  g. in the sweatshops operated mostly by Koreans (Souchaud, 2012).

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WBGU Flagship Report: Humanity on the move: Unlocking the transformative power of cities  

WBGU Flagship Report: Humanity on the move: Unlocking the transformative power of cities  

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