Developing more liveable cities with a center of excellence

27 September 2023 3 min. read

In their ambition to make cities more liveable for their residents, city governments in the Middle East are increasingly looking at the possibility of adopting Centers of Excellence. Ahmed Oraif from KPMG explains how such cross-functional and innovation-focused centers can help officials accelerate their city agenda.

Beyond all the day-to-day challenges that city policy makers face, it is important that they keep sight on what is their chief long-term goal for residents: making cities as liveable as possible.

Recent research recognised the European cities of Vienna and Copenhagen as the most liveable cities in the world. Compiled by The Economist, the research assessed 170+ cities around the world, also finding that Middle Eastern cities still have a road ahead when it comes to offering services including stability, good culture and entertainment, reliable infrastructure, and more.

Developing more liveable cities with a center of excellence

A tried and tested approach to advance the transition to a more liveable city is to set up a Center of Excellence. Notable successful examples include:

The New York City Center for Economic Opportunity has worked with the private sector to develop several innovative public private partnership projects, and has now implemented more than 40 programs in partnership with 20 city agencies.

The London Centre for Smart City Solutions has worked with the private sector to develop several innovative smart city projects, such as traffic management systems and water monitoring systems.

The Singapore Smart Nation and Digital Government Office has worked with the private sector to attract foreign investment and to develop a start-up ecosystem.

The Dubai Future Foundation brings together government agencies, startups, and other organizations to develop and implement solutions to Dubai's challenges. For example, the Dubai Future Foundation worked with the private sector to develop several innovative solutions to address the challenges facing Dubai, such as Governance and public services, and Urban development and infrastructure.

In Saudi Arabia, the Center of Excellence for public private partnerships, established under the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing, helps improve the efficiency and effectiveness of municipal and Housing assets and services. The center is already working on public-private projects across seventeen municipalities, including services like smart parking, waste management, parks, and smart inspections.

The model has already proved an effective collaborative platform for Momrah, the municipalities, the National Center for Privatization and Public Private Partnerships, and the private sector to collectively work toward improving the city services with innovative ownership models, which supports the Vision 2030 objective to rank three Saudi cities among the top 100 liveable cities globally by 2023 (which would mirror Australia).

Center of Excellence: The advantages

Improve efficiency
By bringing together experts from different disciplines, Centers of Excellence can identify and implement solutions that can improve the efficiency of city operations, which can free up resources that can be used to improve other areas, such as public services or infrastructure.

Promote innovation
By providing a forum for sharing ideas and best practices, Centers of Excellence can help to promote innovation in cities, which can lead to the development of new products, services, and technologies that can improve the lives of residents and attract businesses and investors.

Increase investment attractiveness
By demonstrating the city’s commitment to improving its economy and quality of life, Centers of Excellence can help to increase its investment attractiveness. It can attract businesses and investors who are looking to establish operations in the city.

In a nutshell, a Center of Excellence can be key to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of municipal services, promoting innovation, and attracting investment. It can lead to a better quality of life and a more prosperous economy for the country.