Charter City Dreams – Audio Version

Can a once fringe idea revolutionise life for billions in the 21st-century?

  
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Welcome to New World Same Humans, a weekly newsletter on trends, technology, and society by David Mattin.

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I’ve written often, in this newsletter, about what is next for cities.

Recent debate on that subject has tended to focus on the industrialised world. Take a global view, and the picture is more straightforward: cities are the future.

The UN estimates that an additional 2.5 billion people, making 66% of the world’s population, will live in urban areas by 2030. Most of that increase will take place in the developing world; all ten of the cities projected to become megacities by 2030 – think Lahore, Bangkok, and Bogotá among others – are in the Global South.

One dimension on this future? In the wake of the pandemic, a once fringe idea is having a long moment.

Proponents say charter cities are the vehicles via which we can harness the great wave of urbanisation that lies ahead. Get it right, they claim, and we can enact a Great Leap Forward for humanity in the coming decades.

So this week in NWSH #62, a closer look at the charter cities movement, its history, and what is coming next.

If you’d prefer to read this instalment, go here for the text version of Charter City Dreams.


Links in this week’s instalment

1. Proponents of charter cities, including the Charter Cities Institute, point to the success of 20th-century city-states such as Hong Kong, Dubai, and Shenzhen.

2. The US economist Paul Romer first outlined his vision of charter cities in a now-canonical TED talk back in 2009.

3. Romer’s charter city project in Madagascar crumbled after citizens rioted when it emerged that the land earmarked for development was to be owned by Daewoo, a South Korea auto corporation.

4. Próspera, a charter city built on the small Honduran island of Roatán, opened to applications from ecitizens in May 2020.

5. The Senegalese-American rapper Akon says he is ready to start construction on a $6 billion ‘real life Wakanda’ on land donated by the Senegalese government.

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8. Launched in 2020, Plumia bills itself ‘the first country on the internet’.


The New World Metropolis

Thanks for listening this week.

I refer to New World Same Humans as a community. Perhaps what we’re really building here are the beginnings of a new city in the cloud.

The New World metropolis would lay its foundations on a single idea: that we must come together in the 21st-century to build a future that serves, not subjugates, humans.

While I draw up the plans, there’s one thing you can do to help: share!

Now that you’ve made it to the end of this week’s instalment, please consider forwarding the email to someone who’d also enjoy it. Or share it across one of your social networks, with a note on why you found it valuable. Remember: the larger and more diverse the NWSH community becomes, the better for all of us!

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I’ll be back on Wednesday with another New Week Same Humans. Until then, be well,

David.


David Mattin is the founder of the Strategy and Futures Research Unit. He sits on the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Consumption.