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What is next for Haiti’s tourism? Improving resilience and creating a new destination in the Caribbean

MD Staff

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Every year, half a million tourists flock to the beaches of Labadee, where Royal Caribbean Cruise ships dock for the benefit of passengers yearning for a brief escape to Caribbean shores.

The Atlantic-bathed beach resort is located some six kilometers from the northern city of Cap-Haïtien. It has become a genuine tourist destination thanks to its colonial architecture, it’s delicious ‘’capois’’ cuisine and its proximity to the National History Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting historic monuments such as the Citadelle Henry, the Sans Souci Palace, and the Milot Church.

Yet, a mere 80,238 tourists visited the National History Park in 2014. While these numbers represent a significant increase in tourism, it pales in comparison to the crowds of tourists lining Labadee’s beaches. For the Royal Caribbean passengers, the opportunity of walking through Cap-Haïtien’s historic city center and visiting the National History Park could stimulate both the development of tourism and the local economy.

“There is a growing demand to develop the North as a tourism destination in a sustainable way and to improving the generation of economic opportunities. With this is mind, the World Bank is supporting the government’s development strategy in the North and finances a large integrated program in the region to provide better delivery services and road connectivity” said Anabela Abreu, World Bank Country Director for Haiti.”

Cap-Haïtien is currently experiencing a high level of urbanization and is home to approximately 290,000 inhabitants, and will reach 330,000 by 2020. As the recently released World Bank report “Haitian Cities: Actions for Today with An Eye on Tomorrow” highlights: urbanization in other countries is often accompanied by economic growth, increased productivity, and improved standards of living. In the case of Haiti, and particularly in the North, the absence of planning remains one of the main bottleneck for the region’s sustainable economic development.

“Cap-Haïtien is trapped between mountain and ocean in a land space of scarcely more than several square kilometers. With virtually all available land space used up, residents are now headed for the mountain slopes overlooking the city, making matters worse. The community lacks the capacity to apply the necessary fixes, which require a much more significant capital, technical, and legislative intervention,’’ says Cap-Haïtien Mayor, Jean Claude Mondésir.

Uncoordinated and unregulated construction, particularly in at-risk areas, increases the city’s vulnerability to soil erosion and flooding, which has been a recurrent problem in the North in the last few years.

To tackle these challenges and put Cap Haitien on the road to resilience and robust tourism in the North, the World Bank is supporting the government’s development strategy for the Grand Nord region through a series of integrated projects in tourism, urban resilience, agriculture, climate investment, energy, health, transport and water amounting to USD 177 million in investments.

Among these investments, the Cultural Heritage Preservation and Tourism Sector Support project is supporting the conservation of the National History Park, upgrading of the historic city center, and supporting the creation of 370 small and medium enterprises providing cultural and tourism services. In addition, the project on Municipal Development and Urban Resilience aims to reduce the risk of flooding in the city center and improve the capacity of Cap Haïtien and neighboring communes to deliver services to city populations.

These investments open new opportunities for people in the North. Watch the video and go on a journey to Citadel Henri to discover Haiti’s rich cultural heritage and economic potential.

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Urban Development

Creativity, Entrepreneurial Spirit to Form the Blueprint of Innovative Cities of the Future

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Even as new technologies inspire amazement and awe, revolutionizing the way we live our lives, technology leaders from around the globe who have gathered at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions agree that the key elements to the innovative cities and nations of the future are something much more low tech – creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

Yossi Vardi, Chairman of International Technologies, Israel, argued that creative human beings are the secret to successful businesses and innovative societies. “The most important thing is the human being, the person. The person is number one, number two and number three. The rest is almost irrelevant,” Vardi observed, “If you find someone that is top talent, hire them … This is really the scarce resource. It’s like in Hollywood and every other industry – there is a creative element. Technology is the enabler, but the real offering is creativity.”

Speaking on the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s meeting in Tianjin, industry experts and technology leaders argued that the foundations of innovative nations – entrepreneurs – are built rather than bred.

While many cities and countries are looking to create their own versions of Silicon Valley and emulate its extraordinary success, Christine Tsai, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, 500 Startups, USA, emphasized the importance of capturing its entrepreneurial spirit instead.

“I don’t think it is realistic to say you want to recreate Silicon Valley, because Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley,” noted Tsai, “I think it is more important to think about what are you are trying to bring from Silicon Valley into your market, to help spur entrepreneurship and build the ecosystem that will help start-ups thrive.”

From manufacturing to medicine and agriculture, Qin Jun, Chairman of Junzi Capital, People’s Republic of China, said that new technologies would allow companies in many traditional industries to enter “uncharted waters”, leveraging data to improve their efficiency. Jun stressed the importance of a conducive environment for the business creatives of tomorrow in China, a country working to foster a new generation of creative entrepreneurs.

“The power of capital will facilitate people down this road,” noted Jun, “Having a dream. A sense of responsibility is also very important; I think that is part of the entrepreneurial DNA.”

Envisioning the innovative societies of the future, Liu Xiao, Senior Vice-President of China Vanke, People’s Republic of China, offered some examples of how new technologies are impacting traditional sectors in significant ways.

“New technologies definitely have an impact on real estate. On several different fronts we are already using artificial intelligence,” remarked Xiao, “We are looking at ‘smart gates’ with sensors that have facial recognition. In real estate there are also wind-, sun-, light- and noise-proof calculations and now there are artificial intelligence (AI) applications that can do these calculations for us.”

To democratize the advantages of new technologies – to ensure the positive impacts of technology are far-reaching and effective, pointed out Ryu Jung-Hee, Partner and Chief Executive Officer of Futureplay, Republic of Korea, technology and artificial intelligence can also be leveraged to solve social problems.

“The biggest problem in South Korean society is that we are facing an ageing society and a lack of labour,” he said, “So I think AI can help solve those problems. In medical services too, [we can use] AI features to fight cancer. Our intelligence can be extended by AI, which means our inequality problems can also be helped.”

Today AI is touted as a magic buzzword, but in the innovative cities and nations of the future, technology leaders believe the technology will become a seamless part of our global existence.

“There have already been a lot of practical applications that happen around AI that we probably don’t even realize, a lot of things to do with curation or smarter services that are tailored towards you and your interests,” pointed out Tsai. “As our technologies develop, AI will become like mobile is already; now, you won’t say you are a mobile company because everything already is mobile, it is just part of the infrastructure.”

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Urban Development

Cities Need to Be “Agile” to Capture Opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The world is urbanizing and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming life at an unprecedented rate. Cities must be “agile” – able to move quickly and easily – to enable their citizens to thrive. A new World Economic Forum report, Agile Cities: Preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, explains the concept of agility and introduces guidelines for measuring agility in key areas of city life.

From the diverse experience of the Forum’s Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization, the report proposes how to assess physical, digital and environmental aspects of agility in eight categories: buildings, land, energy, mobility, IT, security, education and governance.

Alice Charles, Cities leads at the World Economic Forum, said: “The report is meant to provide a starting point for conversations on how city authorities can better prepare for the changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution while improving urban liveability for citizens. Many cities are already blazing a trail in ways others could emulate.”

The report draws examples of agility from cities around the world, including:

  • “Enterprise Districts” in Singapore where zoning is more flexible to allow academia and business to share collaborative spaces and encourage synergy among businesses in different sectors
  • An app for integrated mobility in Quito, Ecuador, which will make it easy for users to plan and pay for a single journey, and that uses different modes of transport such as metro, bus, private taxi and bike hire
  • Consolidation of separate municipal IT infrastructures in Dubai, with shared services now covering over 90% of employees and 95% of budgets, which has considerably reduced emissions from ICT equipment
  • An app in Moscow through which the city government seeks residents’ feedback on urban development issues before making decisions, with over 1.5 million Muscovites already registered.

In an agile city, the government embraces ongoing transformation; planners efficiently rezone land for temporary uses; buildings serve a diverse mix of functions; policing and prevention strategies are smart and data-driven; agencies share and seamlessly redeploy their IT assets; interoperable transport systems are optimized by real-time information; energy networks maximize use of renewables while ensuring secure supply; and the education system quickly adapts to reflect the economy’s changing needs.

The Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization’s Co-Chair, Abha Joshi Ghani, Senior Adviser on Infrastructure, Public-Private Partnerships and Guarantees, World Bank, said: “Already 54% of the world’s population is urban, and it’ll be over two-thirds by 2050. Cities are engines of economic growth and absolutely central to achieving global aspirations such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”

Co-Chair Carlo Ratti, Director of SENSEable City Lab at MIT, added: “We know agility is important for cities, but what does it really mean? This report introduces a framework for assessing it, and shares many examples of new and emerging initiatives which can potentially be adapted by other cities.”

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Urban Development

Why public transit is a key economic issue for growing cities

MD Staff

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We’d love to take our daily commute for granted. Except, we can’t. It is essential that we continue to make public transportation as efficient as possible for commuters.

Over the decades, as a nation we have put investing in our transportation infrastructure, particularly our bus and rail systems, on the back burner. The result: Today’s public transit backlog sits at $90 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This is a missed opportunity to make our public transportation systems more efficient and our cities more productive, and it has serious economic implications.

For instance, a lack of investment in our public transportation infrastructure costs the U.S. economy $340 billion in revenue over a six-year period, according to the study, “The Economic Cost of Failing to Modernize Public Transportation.” The study was conducted by the Economic Development Research Group Inc. for APTA.

“Our failure as a nation to address America’s public transit modernization needs has wide-ranging negative effects,” says APTA president and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas, “because lost time in travel makes a region’s economy less productive.”

Failing to meet growing public transit needs

As the number of U.S. workers continues to rise, so do the pressures on all areas of our infrastructure.

Since 1995, the U.S. has seen a 42 percent rise in public transit miles traveled. Despite that, needed improvements to our bus and rail assets have not kept pace with growth, the study concludes. Furthermore, the study shows how, as the U.S. fails to invest in the upkeep and maintenance in the nation’s public transit assets, it leads to service interruptions and lost time, which leads to lost wages.

Dorval R. Carter Jr., president of the Chicago Transit Authority, oversees a legacy rail system that’s more than 100 years old, and faces the challenge of fixing or replacing aging infrastructure.

“Parts of our rail system date back to the late 1800s,” Carter says, “we are facing an unmet — and growing — capital need of nearly $13 billion and meeting it has become even more challenging given funding constraints not only at the federal level, but especially at the state and local levels.”

The impact of public transit on local economies

Service interruptions and delays because America has not kept up with transit investments have a direct and immediate effect on the economy. If workers can’t get to work on time, it affects their productivity.

When an aging road and rail system adds time and delays to commutes, that puts the brakes on economic output.

“Based on recent surveys of our riders in Central Ohio, we know 70 percent of our customers rely on our service to reach work,” says Joanna Pinkerton, president and CEO of the Central Ohio Transit Authority. “This is just one example of why it is vital to continue investment in public transportation infrastructure to support residents and the economy.”

Pinkerton adds that over the next 30 years, Central Ohio’s public transit system will have to evolve to prepare for 1 million additional residents and 600,000 jobs.

The quality of a city’s public transportation system is an important factor for companies that are looking to expand or relocate. For example, in 2014, Atlanta’s public transportation system played a role in State Farm Insurance’s bid to locate 8,000 new jobs there. One year ago, when Amazon asked cities to create proposals for its second headquarters, the online retailer indicated that it wanted to hear from cities with access to public transit.

The good news is, Congress has allocated a spending increase for the 2018 fiscal year budget for public transit.

“While this is a positive step forward in helping to address the nation’s aging public transit infrastructure,” Skoutelas says, “this momentum must be maintained by providing similar funding levels for 2019.”

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