The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Dr Naji Makarem

Dr Naji Makarem

Associate Professor

Development Planning Unit

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
18th Sep 2013

Research summary

I am currently leading an on-going consulting project for UNIDO (United National Industrial Development Organisation) and the EU (the European Union) in Sindh Province in Pakistan, through UrbanEmerge, an inclusive and sustainable development consultancy I co-founded with Andreas Beavor in 2017. We were commissioned to develop a conceptual framework for poverty graduation in Sindh, focusing on 5 pilot districts. This programme is designed to support the Government of Sindh’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.  

My research in Mexico, in collaboration with Etienne Von Bertrab and colleagues at the DPU, is about the government’s ‘fourth transformation’ and the potential impact of the Tren Maya mega-project on the Yucatan Peninsula. Will the Tren Maya bring about a new era of more inclusive and sustainable development to the region, the land of the Mayan people, or will it spread socially unjust and environmentally destructive economic development to cities and towns across the region? 

I co-authored a book titled “The rise and fall of urban economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles”, published by Stanford University Press in 2016 (with Michael Storper, Tom Kemeny and Taner Osman). Building on my research in California on the informal institutions that determine industrial development, I led research for DFID’s URN Programme on the Nigeria’s challenge of diversifying its economy away from a dependence on Oil & Gas revenues and its commodity dependence from agricultural cash crops. 

Teaching summary

I teach on the following modules:

• Dev0019 - Practice in Urban Economic Development

• Dev0015 - Critical ideas of development: Conceptions and realities (Two sessions in T2)

• Dev0014 - Industrialization & Infrastructure (Half module)


I am the Co-Leader of the Masters Programme in Urban Economic Development (UED) and Associate Professor in the Political Economy of Development. I lead the Practice Module of the UED Programme and teach on modules in the Msc. In Development Administration and Planning.

I am an Economic Geographer with a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding economic and social development across space, drawing from diverse disciplines such as economic sociology, political science, ecology and innovation theory to address the biggest challenges of our times. My consulting research has focused on the challenge of urban and regional development in the Global South. 

My academic and consulting work is focused on envisioning and enabling a just transition to inclusive, ecological and circular regional development. The ‘take-make-waste’ linear economy is responsible for environmental degradation and extreme inequality at regional, national and global levels. We find ourselves at a critical juncture in human history where the future of urbanisation and the changing nature of many sectors of our economies are poised to have a tremendous impact on our societies, cultures and ways of life. I am passionate about thinking critically about alternative developmental pathways and structural re-engineering ahead of making the decisions that will impact our lives for generations to come.