Leslie Maasdorp, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the New Development Bank, has over 25 years’ experience in senior leadership roles in both private and public sectors. Most recently, he served as a Managing Director and President of Bank of America Merrill Lynch for Southern Africa. In 2002, he was the first African to be appointed as International Advisor to Goldman Sachs International。
David: Leslie, you know Tianjin very well, because you have been several times in Tianjin. And you know that, again, this is a very important moment for Tianjin with the World Intelligence Congress, a Congress in which we are going to speak a lot about smart cities. I wanted to ask you, Leslie, how do you see the green dimension in this concept of smart city?
Leslie: Thank you very much for having me, David. As you know, the smart city framework and concept have been evolving over the last number of years. In all of the biggest countries, China included, there’s been a significant focus by policy makers, by business, to contribute towards this effort, to create smart cities.
For us, where I sit at the New Development Bank, we look at smart cities as sustainable cities, but a strong green element. If you look at the design features of what is a smart city, ultimately, David, it’s about cleaning up the quality of air, it’s about ridding the cities of the excessive pollution, which comes from vehicle exhaust, which comes from industrial emissions, which comes from coal-fired power stations, which are near the cities, to be very centrally involved as a bank in helping China and helping Brazil and helping Russia, India, South Africa to not only create smart cities, but green and more livable cities, because, ultimately, David, for us, smart cities is about quality of life and making a city’s urban planning more people-centered. It is not about technology.
Often when people think smart cities, the first thing they think about is information, communication, telecoms infrastructure. For us, a smart city is about people-centered development. It’s about green spaces. It’s about smart grids. Eventually, as the small city concept evolves, David, it will become very much technology-based. We will all have personalized apps that will set out what is our emission footprint per day, per week, so that we can each contribute to a better, more livable city.
David, I should highlight to you that some of the most polluted cities in the world, six of the top ten most polluted cities in the world are in the BRICS countries. Most of them are in India. So, there’s a significant focus by our institution, and also here in China, as you know, on creating smart cities.
Maybe the last point I’d like to make is that it is very important for a smart city concept to be successful, to have far-sighted policy makers. What we have in China, Tianjin, Xiamen, and many other cities that I have visited, I have seen policy makers focused on the long term, because it’s only the agility, the ability to adapt as new technologies coming, you implement in an incremental manner。
So, long-term horizons, long-term planning is central to an effective, smart city. I think this is where Tianjin will differentiate itself。
David: Thank you very much, Leslie, for telling us that when we think about a smart city, of course, we need to think about technology, but sustainability and governance are also two key themes that one needs to discuss. But you said also in your presentation that a smart city has to be a livable city. I wanted to ask you a second question, what in your opinion makes a city livable, a city in which we feel happy to live in?
Leslie: Cities, David, as you know, are the single largest contributors to emissions globally. In order for the world to deal with climate change, cities are right at the center of that agenda.
As you know, just as a backdrop, in all of our countries, China has, in September 2020, President Xi Jinping at the United Nations General Assembly announced 2060 as the date when China wants to achieve carbon net zero. And by 2030, which by the way is 9 years from now, China wishes to have peak emissions, which means that from that point onwards, China will only remove more emissions from the atmosphere.
Come to your question, what does that actually mean in terms of the livability of cities? It means that the entire focus of planning has to shift towards organizing people’s livelihood in such a manner that they can improve their quality of life。
A livable city is about green spaces. It’s about a city where children can go to school with smart mobility where buses are electrified. China, by the way, has 90% of the electric bus fleet in the world. So, livable cities is about electric vehicles because emissions from cars contribute greatly to the pollution that we are experiencing. Again, 50 % of all electric vehicle sales in the world today are in China. So, making a city livable is about all of these different elements. And what’s important, as I highlighted, is that agility, the ability to plan, move forward, when new technology comes, you adopt and you adapt。
David: Thank you very much, Leslie. So, we will pay attention to the World Intelligence Congress. This is a very important event for Tianjin, for China, but I think also for the world. Because in terms of smart cities, cognitive cities, or livable cities, it seems to me that the world also has to learn from what China is doing and the shift from quantity to quality is very well illustrated in the 14th Five-Year Plan that China has just conceived, designed, and that China will implement. Thank you very much, Leslie, for your very rich contribution to the World Intelligence Congress. Thank you。
Leslie: Thank you。