This lecture aims to introduce how cities can successfully introduce and harness levers to improve their competitiveness, facilitating firm and industry growth to create jobs, raise productivity and increase incomes.


AUDIO: Sameh Wahba - Competitive Cities for jobs and growth: What, Who and How


Issues which the lecture addresses
Many developing economies are experiencing a demographic and spatial transition, with millions of new entrants coming in to the urban labor market. 80% of global economic activity is generated in cities today, but not all cities are able to enjoy economic prosperity. How can a city become competitive, i.e. facilitate firms and industries to grow jobs, productivity and incomes over time? Based on the World Bank’s analysis of over 750 cities worldwide, this lecture will present the need for competitive cities, how selected cities have successfully become competitive, and the tools that can be used to help cities understand and develop competitiveness.

Short analysis of the above issues
Competitive cities have several common traits, including: 1) Accelerated economic growth – The top 10 percent of cities achieved 13.5 percent annual gross domestic product (GDP) per capita growth, compared with 4.7 percent in an average city; 2) Outstanding job growth – The top 10 percent of cities achieved 9.2 percent annual job growth, while the remaining 90 percent only achieved 1.9 percent; 3) Increased incomes and productivity – The top 10 percent of cities increased the average disposable income of their households by 9.8 percent annually; 4) Magnets for foreign direct investment (FDI) – The top 5 percent of cities obtained as much FDI as the bottom 95 percent of cities combined. While there is no single recipe for becoming a competitive city, common patterns of high economic performance emerge. These traits can guide other cities that are designing and implementing their own economic development strategies, e.g. through examining their economic structure, making use of policy levers and building successful growth coalitions.

Propositions for addressing the issue
The lecture will touch on four policy levers available to cities to increase their competitiveness: 1) Institutions and Regulations; 2) Infrastructure; 3) Skills & Innovation and 4) Enterprise Support & Finance. Drawing on examples of work done in successful competitive cities, as well as the World Bank’s work in client cities, the lecture will also demonstrate how analytical and implementation support tools can further help cities develop their competitiveness.


Sameh Wahba, an Egyptian national, is Director for Urban and Territorial Development, Disaster Risk Management and Resilience at the World Bank Group’s Social, Rural, Urban and Resilience Global Practice, based in Washington D.C, where he oversees the formulation of Bank strategy and the design and delivery of all Bank lending, technical assistance, policy advisory activities and partnerships at the global level. Prior to this, he was Practice Manager for the Urban and Disaster Risk Management unit in Africa and the Global Urban and Resilience Unit, and he served as Acting Director of Operations and Strategy for the Global Practice. He also worked as Sustainable Development Sector Leader for Brazil, based in Brasilia, and worked as urban specialist focused on housing, land, local economic development and municipal management and service delivery in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa Regions. Prior to joining the Bank in 2004, he worked at the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies in Rotterdam and at the Harvard Center for Urban Development Studies. He holds a Ph.D. and Masters in urban planning from Harvard University, and a B.Sc and M.Sc in Architectural Engineering from Cairo University. He speaks Arabic, French, English and Portuguese. Most recently, he co-authored the Bank’s flagship publication on “Regenerating Urban Land: A Practitioner’s Guide to Leveraging Private Investment.”


Competitive Cities report:

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