USAID's E3/Urban Team Speaker Series

On February 1, 2017, USAID’s E3/Land and Urban Office kicked off a new UrbanLinks event series examining urban development assistance with a panel event on Financing Urban Infrastructure. The panel brought together experts who addressed how cities can bridge the gap between insufficient funding resources and developing and maintaining resilient urban infrastructure.

Moderator USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Carrie Thompson outlined challenges facing rapidly growing cities in developing countries. The panelists included David Painter, a senior advisor to the World Bank and the Cities Alliance. Mr. Painter is an expert on improving city creditworthiness and facilitating long-term urban infrastructure financing. Panelist Kirti Devi is a Municipal Finance Specialist for the World Bank at the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) with experience in sub-national planning and finance. The third panelist was Christopher Kaczmarski, an expert on assisting governments and institutions through planning and implementation of programs on climate change adaptation (CCA) and sustainable development financing. The experts weighed in on topics ranging from Public-Private Partnerships, development banks, credit enhancement or guarantees, on-lending, and the role of private capital and donors such as USAID.

Mr. Painter brought to the audience’s attention to the new approach that the World Bank is currently rolling out. The approach seeks to improve the World Bank’s traditional role as a primarily lending bank. Instead, World Bank will bring commercial financing in on critical resources to help leverage money at the local level. The panelists agreed that the new approach, along with changing philosophies at donors such as USAID, presents a positive change for traditional financing organizations beginning to act as catalysts to urban financing instead of direct providers.  In particular, Ms. Devi thought that USAID can still play a critical role as “one of few entities with sufficient expertise to support sub national financing, and bring experts in to address long-term technical assistance.” Ms. Devi further pointed out that USAID has the in-country presence that can greatly improve technical assistance on a country by country basis. She noted that “everything we do is very context specific. Urbanization in Asia looks very different from urbanization in Africa.”

All three panelists agreed that integrating climate change resilience into municipal projects cannot be ignored, despite the increased cost. Mr. Kaczmarski argued that even “unbankable” projects should not be ignored, particularly if co-financing can allow cities to decide what they need instead of relying solely on investors’ perspective. Overall, the panelists agreed the local funding sources should be brought in sooner. In particular, Mr. Kaczmarski noted that “recent trends toward leveraging local resources is positive.”

Learn more about the recent panel and future events rest of the speaker series by visiting the UrbanLinks website. Urban Links is implemented by ECODIT along with ICMA through the Supporting Office of Urban Planning (SOUP) Project under the Making Cities Work IDIQ.