When we talk about megacities, we naturally focus on their large size. For some, this can be a bad thing, bringing vulnerability through a high concentration of people and extreme dynamics, with potential for conflict, social disintegration, various crises and disasters. For others, the large scale of people rubbing together is a good thing, and from an investment and business growth perspective that is where I see things. Megacities are a great business opportunity.

Europe is fairly modest when it comes to the presence of megacities. The UN's 'World Urbanisation Prospects' report only puts Istanbul, Moscow, Paris and London in the more than 10 million-population club (the standard definition of a megacity), and only Istanbul gets in the top 20 list of the world’s largest urban agglomerations. Most of the big-big cities are in Asia and the Americas.

Advertisement

For Europe, its megacities are an asset to be appreciated and exploited. Paris and London offer the highest population densities in Europe, with an incredible 21,516 people per square kilometre in Paris (more than double London’s 9843 people per ). In urban development circles, population density is viewed as a good thing. It can bring efficiencies in energy consumption and minimise environmental impacts; it can have positive impacts on productivity and innovation; and can provide a high quality of life and liveability for people.

Megacities are Europe’s shop window to present to the world its best ideas, its high-growth businesses and its financial power and innovation. They offer diversity, and the bump-and-grind dynamic to make things happen. They connect, collaborate and trade with other world cities. They are big markets in their own right and their high density allows beta testing of new business models. One example is their lead in the development of the sharing economy. Some think that big cities cause problems, when in fact they can actually help us solve the big problems.  

Douglas Clark is director of Location Connections, a site selection and FDI consultancy. Email: douglas@locationconnections.com