Large cities exert a magical attraction on people. Today more than half of the world’s population already lives in cities, and by the year 2030 two-thirds of the planet’s inhabitants will be city dwellers. The large cities in Africa and Asia are undergoing particularly rapid growth. According to estimates by the UN Human Settlements Program Habitat, the urban population in Asia will rise from 1.36 billion to 2.64 billion in the next 20 years, while in Africa it will rise from 294 million to 742 million, and in Latin America and the Caribbean the increase will be from 394 million to over 600 million.
Big cities, enormous challenges
Does moving to a city really improve a person’s quality of life? Often enough, the rural exodus sadly ends in the squalor of the slums. Experts estimate that one billion people are now living in slums on the edges of large cities — with tens of thousands more arriving daily. And even today these megacities are hardly able to cope with their huge set of challenges. Providing a functioning transportation infrastructure, supplies of energy, drinking water and food, waste disposal, and clean air — these challenges will become even more difficult as growing numbers of people move to these congested urban areas.
The fast growth of cities will pose a tremendous challenge to policymakers, economists and business leaders, and society in general in the coming years — but it will also open up a wealth of new opportunities. Anna Tibaijuka, who served as Executive Director of Habitat until 2010, points out: “Humanity stands at the brink of an urban millennium. It’s an undeniable fact.” As a result, she’s asking politicians and city planners “to see urbanization as a force for good in our economic development and in our social and political progress.”
That’s why LANXESS is aiming to give a sustainable shape to our urban future — and also to benefit from this development. The company’s portfolio includes numerous products that make urban living more comfortable, healthier, and safer. It’s no coincidence that a key role in the growth strategy of this specialty chemicals company is being played by the urbanization megatrend — and by the issues of mobility, nutrition, and water. Axel C. Heitmann, the CEO of LANXESS, explains: “Demand for our innovative products and solutions is growing. China alone is planning to build dozens of new cities in order to provide more capacity for urbanization. This development coupled with the growth of the middle class offer many opportunities for us.”