Industry players at a banking forum here on Friday said they see huge business opportunities from urbanization in Asia, with a researcher highlighting themes such as infrastructure, consumer products and agriculture.
The infrastructure sector of the region alone calls for investments of 2.4 trillion U.S. dollars in the years from now to 2030, Fraser Thompson, senior fellow from the McKinsey Global Institute, said at the DBS Asian Insights Conference.
He also expected the agricultural sector to consolidate, generating huge business opportunities.
Liew Mun Leong, a veteran business leader who is now chairman of the Changi Airport Group, said Asia, in particular, would need transport facilities, hospitals and airports.
There will be a huge demand for financing as various construction is expected to remain robust in Asia, creating business for the banking sector, too, he said.
"Asia's cities are growing by 44 million people each year," the DBS Bank said in a report, citing researches by the Asian Development Bank. "In about a decade from now, half the region's population will live in cities."
The DBS Bank said that Asia will drive global urbanization, with China and India expected to contribute a combined 37 percent of the 1.4 billion more urban residents by 2030.
China sees urbanization as a key tool to reduce poverty and create jobs. Southeast Asia has followed suit. South and Southwest Asia are now 45 percent and 35 percent urban now, but the urban population has been increasing in almost every country in Asia since 1980.
DBS Bank Chief Economist David Carbon said that Asia contributed 0.4 U.S. dollar of demand for every U.S. dollar of new demand created by the United States in 1980, whereas nowadays it is 2.5 U.S. dollars of demand created by Asia for every dollar of demand created by the United States.
"Since Lehman Brothers collapsed five years ago, Asia has added 1.25 Germanys to the world's economic map," he said. "Nobody saw this coming in 2008. Most argued it was impossible."
Asia is now putting a Germany on the world economic map every 3. 5 years. In 2039, it will be creating a Germany every seven months.
Experts also said that Asian policy makers need to make the cities liveable, given that China has to build another three Americas to complete its urbanization process, India will have to build another five, while Indonesia will have to build another one or two Americas.
Give the massive scale of urbanization, the cities would have to be built "correctly," said Liu Thai-Ker, a renowned architect who is known as the father of urban planning in Singapore.
Liu said that not many cities in Asia are nowadays truly liveable, except for some cities in Japan and Singapore. Some of the cities in China are close to being liveable, too.
Liew said that the cities would have to be resilient, which calls for all possible factors to be taken into consideration in the process of planning.
Singapore has had no major earthquakes, yet discussions have been held on the scenario of an earthquake, he said.