Recorded in Tatu City, Kenya, not far from Nairobi, Tatu City is a budding Special Enterprise Zone. Here is the transcript, audio, and video. Here is the episode overview: Stephen and Tyler first met over thirty years ago while working on economic reforms in New Zealand. With a distinguished career that transitioned from the New
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Recorded in Tatu City, Kenya, not far from Nairobi, Tatu City is a budding Special Enterprise Zone. Here is the transcript, audio, and video. Here is the episode overview:
Stephen and Tyler first met over thirty years ago while working on economic reforms in New Zealand. With a distinguished career that transitioned from the New Zealand Treasury to significant ventures in emerging economies, Stephen now focuses on developing new urban landscapes across Africa as the founder and CEO of Rendeavour.
Tyler sat down with Stephen in Tatu City, one of his multi-use developments just north of Nairobi, where they discussed why he’s optimistic about Kenya in particular, why so many African cities appear to have low agglomeration externalities, how Tatu City regulates cars and designs for transportation, how his experience as reformer and privatizer informed the way utilities are provided, what will set the city apart aesthetically, why talent is the biggest constraint he faces, how Nairobi should fix its traffic problems, what variable best tracks Kenyan unity, what the country should do to boost agricultural productivity, the economic prospects for New Zealand, how playing rugby influenced his approach to the world, how living in Kenya has changed him, what he will learn next, and more.
Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: Just give us some basic facts. Where is Tatu City right now, and where will it be headed when it’s more or less finished?
JENNINGS: Tatu City is the only operational special economic zone [SEZ] in the country. It is 5,000 hectares of fully planned urban development. It is at quite an advanced stage. We have 70 large-scale industrial companies with us, including major multinationals and many of the regional leaders. We have 3,000 students come on site every day to our four new schools. We’re advanced in building the first phase of the first new CBD for the region. We have tens of thousands of core center jobs moving into that area, together with other modern office amenities. All of the elements — we have many residential modules, thousands of new residential units at a wide range of price points — all of the elements of a new city are in place.
COWEN: How many people will end up living here?
JENNINGS: Around 250,000.
COWEN: And how many businesses?
JENNINGS: There’ll be thousands of businesses.
And delving more deeply into matters:
COWEN: What do you think is the book [on economic development] that has influenced you most?
JENNINGS: It’s a very good question. I think I’ve read just about everything in development. There’s nothing I really like very much. Development is a black box. I don’t think there’s anything that has much predictive power. There’s a lot of ex post explanations, whether they be policy settings, location, culture. I think 90% of them are ex post; very few of them are predictive. Some of them are just tautologies. I really like factualization.
It’s descriptive more than analytical, but it just makes it clear that most of the world has been on a very similar development trajectory. It’s just not sequenced. Sweden started early; Ethiopia started late. But the nature of the transition and the inevitability of that transition, other than very extreme circumstances, is kind of the same.
COWEN: What do you think economists get wrong?
JENNINGS: I don’t think we really understand development at all, because if we could, we could predict it. We can predict virtually nothing. It’s just too complicated. It’s too connected with politics. I think there’s a lot of feedback loops and elements of development that we don’t understand properly. We certainly can’t quantify them because the development’s happening in such a wide range of settings, from communism dictatorships through to very liberal systems and with all different kinds of industrial — on every dimension, there’s a huge range of variables.
Excellent and interesting throughout.
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