Growth brief: Making cities work for development

Download briefCities can be productive and liveable places but poor public services, weak infrastructure, and institutional and legal obstacles to private investment have in many cases undermined their performance.

In this brief we analyse the potential of cities in the developing world and the interventions required to achieve this potential. This brief is particularly useful for policymakers when formulating urban plans and considering new infrastructure systems.


1) Cities in the developing world can be both productive and liveable places.

The fundamental advantage of cities is that of scale – the concentration of people enables economic and social interactions to occur more frequently and effectively. This creates the potential for cities to be productive and to offer inhabitants a decent quality of life.

2) To achieve cities’ potential, policymakers must address key issues including land, transport, public finance and regulation.

Making the city work requires investments in residential, commercial and industrial structures, as well as infrastructure. These must be supported by a combination of effectively functioning land markets, appropriate regulation, good public services, and adequate public finance.

3) The implications of failure are deeply felt and long run.

Harnessing the unprecedented growth in urbanisation over the coming generation will require smart policy and hard work. However, in many cases policy failures have undermined city development.