The Megacity Opportunity

by Ken Robertson

I had the opportunity to listen to TED speaker and Global Strategist Parag Khanna deliver a fascinating presentation on how megacities (bustling cities with a population exceeding 10 million) are transforming the world.

Humans are hardwired to connect and share experiences and knowledge. As major metropolitan cities grow more connected through transportation, technology, supply chains, energy, and communications networks, megacities are redrawing the physical geography—city, state, and even country borders—to functional geography—or what Khanna calls “connectography.” This means that countries can actually be suburbs of some cities simply because of the sheer magnitude of this connectivity.

From a socioeconomic standpoint, this could help sustainability efforts, inequality, and even mitigate geopolitical conflicts because information and resources of how to do things better and smarter are shared. But how are businesses and their strategic planning impacted?

Connectivity is the organizing principle of urbanization that will see a very large number of people moving to megacities to share in the knowledge wealth.  In fact, it has been estimated that by 2020, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. This goes against the trend of people moving to the suburbs and companies setting up shop in secondary markets where the cost of doing business is less. As technology continues its upward trajectory and people become more engaged, megacities will only get bigger and rapidly-expanding cities like Chicago and Houston will eventually join the ranks. Khanna suggests that by 2030, there could be as many as 50 megacities cross the globe. I suspect more job seekers and businesses will turn their attention to megacities—estimated at $2 trillion in GDP each—and set roots in those markets. That doesn’t mean that everyone will live in downtown location. It means that people will choose to live in a megacity that encompasses a region with increased connections, increased population, and increased infrastructure.

As companies map out their strategic plans for 2017, don’t be surprised to see more businesses move away from secondary markets and into a megacity—or an up and coming megacity— because that is where the opportunities lie. And as Khanna states, connectivity is opportunity. It is the most important asset class of the 21st century, and I would have to agree. There is more opportunity for trade of goods and intel, more investment potential, greater profit sharing potential, and overall more stability.


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Ken Robertson is the Central Regional President for KBS, overseeing over 12 million square feet.