This event was one of the series of five public Global Debates celebrating ten years of the Urban Age programme. The debates discussed five core themes that have been the focus of research and debate at the Urban Age since 2005. The event series was organised by LSE Cities and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society, in association with Guardian Cities.
Since 2006, over 134 million hectares of African land – roughly the size of France, Spain and Germany – has been bought by foreign investors, the region where urban growth is most expected in the next 20 years. At the same time large swathes of global cities like London, New York and Paris are owned or being developed by foreign sovereign wealth funds and international corporate investors. Leading urban sociologist Saskia Sassen – who identified the global cities dynamic – argued that these new and tacit patterns of ownership are having a negative impact on the ‘cityness’, vibrancy and accessibility of urban systems by cutting off parts of the city from public use. Could this form of investment and speculation in cities and buildings be causing de-urbanisation? These issues were debated with policymakers and leaders who have been involved in reshaping the structure of urban ownership and investment.