Sustainable innovation and empowering human capital to drive Cairo’s post-COVID growth

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Research from HSBC shows that the largest cities across the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT) will need to prioritise sustainable innovation, empower human capital, and support new flows of trade if they are to thrive post-COVID-19.

Published on UN World Cities Day, the HSBC City Reports on Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Dubai, Istanbul and Riyadh stress the need for city and business leaders to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst for more diversified, more digitised, cleaner and greener cities.

Commenting on the report, Todd Wilcox, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HSBC Egypt, said: “Egypt’s proven ability to evolve in response to constant change over millennia can be seen clearly in Cairo’s response to supporting sustainable development and business growth despite the uncertainty caused by COVID-19”.

“With Cairo forecast to grow by more than 35 per cent by 2035 to be one of the world’s fastest-growing megacities, HSBC is supporting customers and communities through this next phase of change. Entrepreneurship is booming, fuelled by a young, creative and tech savvy population, and at least 10 per cent of all new start-ups in Cairo are in the sustainable sector. Targeted national investment programmes, major projects, powerful demographics and economic reforms will help make Cairo a magnet for future global capital flows,” Todd added.

The reports analyse how COVID-19 has amplified awareness of the severity of climate change and the urgent need for more sustainable economies and infrastructure. They indicate that COVID-19 is broadening public support for an environmentally responsible future and that today’s relatively low oil prices may be the catalyst for an historic shift towards cleaner energy.

The reports also detail how the pandemic has put a fresh focus on the importance of human health and balanced lifestyles. The reports suggest that governments may be more likely to incentivise medical research and create dedicated schemes to attract and retain talent to support drug development and vaccine discoveries.

The reports highlight that unpredictable levels of lockdown have created a new imperative to reinvent global supply chains and diversify trade relationships. For Middle East cities that have strengthened ties during the pandemic, there are increasing opportunities for complementary development and specialisation across multiple sectors that will serve the wider region.

Professor Greg Clark, author of the reports and Global Head of Future Cities and New Industries at HSBC, said: “MENAT is home to bustling cosmopolitan cities with extraordinary histories, and these five in particular are primed to set the standard as future global hubs. Their next chapter of growth will depend on the individual ability of their economies to drive climate and sustainability-oriented innovation, reinvented trade flows, and the pursuit of human health and happiness.”

The HSBC Cairo City Report is part of a wider Future Cities campaign that the bank has launched across the region, which also includes bringing the reports to life in street art that captures the elements of each city’s next cycle of development while paying tribute to their heritage.