What do Chengdu, Lagos, and Chicago have in common?

April 05, 2011 |
Rob Cassidy

They’re all “world middleweight cities” that are likely to become regional megacities (10 million people) by 2025—along with Dongguan, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Wuhan (China); Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo); Jakarta (Indonesia); Lahore (Pakistan); and Chennai (India).

These “emerging middleweight” cities are among the “City 600,” the top 600 cities by contribution to global GDP growth from 2007 to 2005, as defined in a new report from McKinsey Global Institute: “Urban World: Mapping the economic power of cities”.

The 1.5 billion people who live in the City 600 (22% of world population) accounted for $30 trillion of GDP in 2007—more than half of global GDP. The top 100 alone generated $21 trillion, 38% of global GDP, according to McKinsey.

By 2025, these 600 cities will be home to 2.0 billion, a quarter of the world’s population, and account for $64 trillion, or 60% of global GDP.

The top 25 “hot spots” for GDP by 2025 include (in rank order) New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Houston, Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco, along with such places as São Paolo (Brazil), Rhein-Ruhr (Germany), Mexico City, Randstad (Netherlands), Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong.

Other key findings of the McKinsey study:

• By 2025, the makeup of the City 600 will change as the center of gravity of the urban world moves south and east. One-third of developed market cities will no longer make the top 600.

• By 2025, up to 136 new cities will enter the City 600 list, all of them from the developing world—100 of them from China alone, including Haerbin, Shantou, and Guiyang.

• India will contribute 13 newcomers to the City 600 list, including Hyderabad and Surat. Latin America will add eight, notably Cancún (Mexico) and Barranquilla (Colombia).

• About 310 million more people of working-age population will live in the City 600 by 2025—almost 35% of the expansion of the global workforce, almost all of it in emerging markets and two-thirds in China and South Asia.

What do all these fascinating data points mean to the design and construction industry, and to you as an AEC professional? In a nutshell, the McKinsey people are saying, If you want to grow your business—and your career—over the next 15 years, you must look to foreign climes.

It is in the emerging cities that GDP will be growing at a faster rate than global GDP. Where the workforce will be expanding more quickly than in the rest of the world. Where demand for housing, retail shops, schools, libraries, museums, data centers, universities, office buildings, religious centers—all the magnificent structures you and your firms create and build—will be accelerating at a hyperfast rate compared to the growth, if any, in much of the developed world.

To be competitive in the coming decade and a half, AEC firms and professionals are going to have to shift their lines of sight eastward and southerly, to places with names like Luanda, Chongqing, Dhaka, Colombo, and Grande Vitória.

Rob Cassidy | Building Team Blog

Rob Cassidy (“ClimateGrouch”) is editorial director of Building Design+Construction. A city planner, he is the author of several books, including “Livable Cities,” and was a co-founder of the Friends of the Chicago River.

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