I live in Dar es Salaam, the biggest city in my country and one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. When my country gained independence from the British in 1961, the Dar es Salaam Metropolitan area had a population of 174,000 people; now in 2023, the population of the Dar Metro area is 7.7 million people. In 62 years, Dar es Salaam’s population has increased a staggering 45 times.
I’m talking about my home city, Dar es Salaam, because Dar es Salaam has played a big role in my life and cities as a whole, are becoming a huge part of the human species. According to our world in data, in 1960, only 1 billion people lived in urban areas and about 2 billion lived in rural settings, now in 2023 about 4 billion people live in urban areas. More and more people are moving into and living in cities and estimates predict 6.7 billion people will live in an urban setting in 2050.
To tell a story about the future of mankind, a story of what lies ahead for our species without telling the story of future cities is irrelevant. As we evolve as a species, so do our cities. Today I’m going to write about the cities of the future, what lies ahead for our metropolises and how future cities will tackle modern and future problems.
Bigger and greener cities.
It isn’t a stretch to say that cities have a big impact on the environment, As a resident of Dar es Salaam I have witnessed how city life has affected the natural beauty of the Tanzanian coast. Plastic, chemicals and domestic waste are thrown into our oceans, trees are cut and concrete and tarmac make the already hot Dar es Salaam summers hotter.
If our cities are going to grow bigger, they should grow with sustainability in mind. Currently, 70% of global CO2 emissions are from cities, this will become worse if our cities continue to grow without taking into account the environment. Good thing that making green cities has become a top priority for most urban planners and governments.
Cities like Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Singapore, Dubai and Vancouver are leading the charge towards more sustainable cities. These cities spend millions of dollars on research to develop technologies that will curb their environmental footprint and to a degree, the work has paid off. Innovations such as green roofs, city carbon capture systems, urban farming, sustainable greenhouses and cleaner public transit are popping up in these cities and many other cities worldwide.
Singapore especially has been a pioneer of green and sustainable cities. Singapore has used a plethora of methods to reduce its footprint and prosper at the same time. Singapore has integrated its buildings with vegetation, making the city a garden city with most buildings meshing with vegetation. It is not only pretty to look at but also sustainable. Singapore’s city council has also encouraged Singapore’s sustainable growth by introducing the unique Green Mark Scheme in 2005.
Our cities need to mesh with our environment. Nature and natural beauty should be at the forefront of the growth of our cities. Future cities need to look at Singapore and the world’s green cities for inspiration otherwise we will live in a metropolitan hell rather than a metropolitan utopia.
The idea of connectivity is every tech nerd’s dream, the idea that everything is connected and that they can communicate with one another is an awesome idea. Many tech companies have tried to make their iteration of this interconnected dream. Apple is the most infamous of these companies with its “ecosystem”. Apple devices are connected to one another, a Macbook can talk to an iPhone and an iPhone is connected to an Apple watch. Features like continuity have made the lives of many Apple enthusiasts simple and fun. Being an owner of an iPhone, Macbook and Apple watch, I can testify that interconnectivity rocks.
Enough with the Apple propaganda. What if I tell you our future cities will become more like the Apple ecosystem? Even better! Smart cities are an idea that has always been in the imagination of many. With the Internet of Things and Web 3.0, our cities are becoming more connected.
Smart cities are basically cities where different aspects are monitored and connected via the internet and computers. Just imagine, you are stuck in traffic and because of the Internet of Things your smart home is informed and your stove might prepare your dinner a little bit later. You know what! A Smart city won’t even have traffic. Vehicle information and road data can be used to ensure only suitable cars are on the road, curbing traffic caused by accidents.
Smart cities do not only solve the problem of traffic. They have many implications. Smart cities can track the spread of an epidemic and help stop the spread of the infection, waste management can become more efficient and green cities can become greener with effective computerised maintenance of the vegetation.
Crime can be surveilled and stopped. City growth patterns can be analysed and problems like homelessness and crime can be availed with proper urban planning. I know I am making smart cities sound too good, Yes they will have their problems but when it comes to Smart cities the sky's the limit and maybe all these predictions might come true
The future of urban governance
With millions of people flocking to cities, the way cities are governed will most likely change. Some cities like Lagos in Nigeria are even expected to have a population of over 80 million in 2075. With all these people and the problems they bring, what will the future city’s governance be like?
Lagos with 80 million people already has a larger population than Tanzania today, Some researchers predict that cities might become city-states again like how they once were not so long ago. Cities might gain a unique identity of their own, different from the rest of the country and choose to be autonomous and some even independent.
Cities are also becoming more diverse because of globalisation, future cities are going to be multicultural hubs with people from all over the world. Will cities be able to accommodate and treat all of these people of different backgrounds equally?
The future of urban governance is more of a guess. With more cities growing and gaining an identity maybe some might branch off and become states. Some cities like New York and Hong Kong already have a unique identity that’s different from the rest of their country and city-states like Monaco exist maybe our future will have more states like Monaco than what we have today.
Ever since the first cities were made by man in Mesopotamia, the relationship between humanity and cities has grown closer and closer. One cannot mention human life without mentioning cities, our cultural, economic and political hubs and most importantly our homes. What lies ahead is a more intimate relationship with cities as more of our population will live in them.
Today I write about how the cities of the future will look like, how they’ll grow and how they might be governed. Even though the predictions I’ve made about cities might be wrong, one thing is for sure, cities will play a bigger role in our species than ever before.
PS: If you want to see a cool smart city design, press the following link National Geographic's cities of the Future