The Center for Innovative Governance Research is pleased to announce the Inaugural Charter Cities Conference .

Rapid urbanization, under-provision of infrastructure, and governance are among the most pressing challenges of the 21st century. Creating opportunities for new urban residents means not just improving tens of millions of lives but increasing political stability and adding brainpower to reach humanity’s potential.

Charter cities, new cities with a special jurisdiction which can adopt the best practices of commercial law, are an important part of a solution to both the challenges posed by urbanization and continued global poverty. Charter cities build the necessary physical infrastructure and legal frameworks to encourage investment, employment, and economic development.

Join the Center for Innovative Governance Research to hear from entrepreneurs, investors, new city developers, government officials, and experts in international development to forge the lasting relationships necessary to make charter cities a reality. This ground-breaking conference is the first step to crafting the future of governance.  

What are charter cities?

Charter cities are new city developments granted a special jurisdiction that allows them to adopt the best practices in commercial law. As the successes of Singapore, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Dubai illustrate, by improving governance it’s possible for cities to achieve prosperity in two or three generations. Inspired by such accomplishments, charter cities are a policy reform package for new cities to create the institutions necessary for decades of economic growth.

Charter cities are the next generation of economic development tools—a hybrid between new city developments and special economic zones. With comprehensive governance reform, including business registration, labor law, taxes, and dispute resolution, charter cities can quickly become the best place to do business in a region. 

The Center for Innovative Governance Research is a Washington D.C. based nonprofit creating the ecosystem for charter cities. We coordinate new city developers, entrepreneurs, investors, international development experts, and government officials to create a shared understanding of charter cities and to foster relationships which lead to the construction of charter cities. Additionally, we work with new city developments and governments to create the legal framework for charter cities.

Additional reading:


Dr. Mark Lutter

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Dr. Mark Lutter is Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Innovative Governance Research, a nonprofit creating the ecosystem for charter cities. He has a PhD in economics from George Mason University where he wrote his dissertation on charter cities. Prior to launching the Center for Innovative Governance Research, he was Lead Economist for NeWAY Capital, an asset management firm which made early stage investments in charter cities. During graduate school, he consulted on several new city projects and special economic zones. He has been published in several newspapers and magazines including CityAM, the Daily Caller, and Cato Unbound.

Tamara Winter

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Tamara Winter is the Communications Lead at the Center for Innovative Governance Research. Prior to joining the Center she worked as a Program Associate with the Project for the Study of American Capitalism at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She holds a BS in Economics and BA in Public Policy from Southern Methodist University, where she also worked as a Niemi Fellow in the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom. Her byline has appeared in Chicago Tribune and the Washington Times.

Kilian Kleinschmidt

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Kilian Kleinschmidt is an international networker, humanitarian and refugee expert with 30 years of experience in a wide range of countries, emergencies and refugee camps as United Nations official, Aid worker and Diplomat. He is the founder and Chairman of the start-up Innovation and Planning Agency (IPA) which aims at connecting the millions of poor and disadvantaged with relevant and under-utilized resources and modern technologies of the 21st century through its project SWITXBOARD He is part of a number of initiatives and Projects which aim at global connectivity through better use of globalization. He is currently developing a number of ventures which aim at sustainable investment and social impact in very fragile environments.

He most recently became known as the “Mayor of Za'atari" when he managed the refugee camp of Za'atari in Northern Jordan from 2013-2014 on behalf of UNHCR. Za'atari has become a symbol for new and innovative approaches in refugee and humanitarian management under his leadership. He is now challenging the Humanitarian Aid Sector through a range of new and unorthodox partnerships, technologies and ways of financing building on networking and swarm intelligence rather than hierarchies and ineffective bureaucracies. His work on emerging cities, Special Development Zones and urbanization of refugee camps is widely recognized as the way forward dealing with mass migration, population shifts and transformation of society.

Previous senior roles included Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Deputy Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, Director for Communities and Minorities in the UN administration in Kosovo, Executive Secretary for the Migration and Refugee Initiative (MARRI) in the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe and many field-based functions with UNHCR, UNDP and WFP. He worked extensively in Africa, South Eastern Europe, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and during the European refugee crisis advised the Austrian Minister of Interior on Refugee reception centres. Most recently he was a Special Advisor to the German Minister of Development on Refugee issues and innovative partnerships (2016). In 2017 he and a global IPA team developed a strategy on stabilisation of migration flows and development in Africa for the Chancellor of Austria. Currently his team and network are working on new approaches to the stabilisation of Libya through partnership acceleration for businesses and municipalities and the establishment of Special Development Zones.

He has published three books - “Weil es um die Menschen geht” (ECON 2015), “Beyond Survival” (Dumont-Mair 2016) and “Tod dem Helfer” (Dumont-Mair 2017) and authored a number of articles on refugee and migration issues. He is a renowned public speaker in conferences, TEDx and other events.

Michael Castle Miller

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Michael is a legal and policy consultant who has helped develop special jurisdictions, including special economic zone programs, for over twenty countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa. He has helped governments and private companies to draft legislation and regulations, establish administrative agencies, introduce investment climate reforms, and structure public-private partnerships.

He is the CEO of Politas Consulting, which provides innovative legal and policy solutions to help cities and special jurisdictions achieve inclusive growth. He is also the Executive Director of Refugee Cities, an NGO applying special-jurisdiction frameworks to expand opportunities for migrants. Previously, Michael served as a consultant with the World Bank, Legal Vice Presidency, specializing in urban law and development issues.

W. Gyude Moore

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W. Gyude Moore is a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development. He previously served as Liberia’s Minister of Public Works with oversight over the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure from December 2014 to January 2018.

Prior to that role, Moore served as Deputy Chief of Staff to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Head of the President’s Delivery Unit (PDU). As Head of the PDU, his team monitored progress and drove delivery of the Public Sector Investment Program of Liberia—a program of over $1 billion in road, power, port infrastructure, and social programs in Liberia after the civil war. As one of the President’s trusted advisors, he also played a crucial role in supporting President Sirleaf as Liberia responded to the West Africa Ebola outbreak and shaped its post-Ebola outlook.

At CGD, Moore’s research focus is around financing infrastructure in Africa and the changing landscape of development finance on the continent. His research tracks the channels of private sources of finance, the rise of China and its expanding role in Africa, and Africa’s response to these changes. He currently serves on the Board of Advisors of the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program at Georgetown University. He holds a BS in Political Science from Berea College and an MS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

Thibault Serlet

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Thibault Serlet is the vice president of the Adrianople Group, a private intelligence provider that works with Special Economic Zones. He co-founded the Startup Societies Foundation, and has organized America's largest charter cities conference. He previously worked as an advisor and operations officer for several start-ups including ProudSource. Thibault also maintains a blog where he reviews a wide variety of history books, science fiction novels, and classics.

Wade Shepard

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Wade Shepard is an author and journalist who has been moving through the world since 1999, working in over 89 countries. He's the author of "Ghost Cities of China: The Story of Cities Without People in the World's Most Populated Country," which recounts the two and a half years he spent in China's sparsely populated new cities, and "On the New Silk Road" which is about the revival of the Silk Road as seen from the ground. He is a regular contributor at Forbes and The Guardian, covering cultural, political, and economic upheavals in emerging markets, with a special focus on new cities. He has been a guest on BBC World News, NPR 'Morning Edition,' CNBC 'Squawk Box,' CBC 'The Current,' VICE, among other top news programs.




Book: Ghost Cities of China

Forbes: , The Guardian:, South China Morning Post:
Citiscope:, The Diplomat:, Blog:

Twitter: @WadeShepard, @VagabondJourney

Preston Mendenhall

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Preston has more than 25 years' experience living and working in emerging markets, including six years at Rendeavour, Africa’s largest new city builder with more than 12,000 hectares of land under development in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia and DRC. Prior to Rendeavour, Preston was Vice President for Strategy of Russian Standard, Russia’s leading global consumer brand with interests in financial services and alcohol beverage production and distribution. From 1993-2006, Preston was a producer and correspondent for NBC News, covering global events in the Soviet successor states, Europe, Central and South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Davis Sadike

Project Executive: Bojanala Special Economic Zone (SEZ)

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I am passionate about Urban and Rural Development - the extent to which smart and sustainable people oriented living spaces of the future will provide for fast growing trends in creating high quality, vibrant, liveable, safe and efficient communities. I am fascinated by initiatives around the world that creation of compact, walkable, mixed use communities as well linkages from one town to the next. I am attracted to initiatives to shape new living space transformation and efforts to enhance liveability to cater for creation of new districts and integrated townships; spatial planning, place making, exciting neighbourhood developments, vertical cities and mixed use development.

Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

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Iyinoluwa Aboyeji is an entrepreneur in the public interest. He is passionate about partnering with missionary talent and capital to build an African future. He spent the last few years as the CEO of Flutterwave, a business building payments technology and infrastructure to connect Africa to the global economy.

Over those years, he led the company to become one of the fastest growing payments technology businesses of all-time processing over $2 billion across over 50 million transaction with annual revenues of millions of dollars a year. It also attracted significant investment from experienced players in the global payments arena such as Y Combinator (investors in Stripe), Greycroft (investors in Braintree), Greenvisor Capital (Led by the Former CEO of Visa), Mastercard amongst others.

Prior to helping to co-found and lead Flutterwave, Iyinoluwa co-founded Andela - Africa's largest engineering organization with over 1000 software engineers which has received investment from Mark Zuckerberg and Google Ventures amongst others

Iyinoluwa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Legal Studies from the University of Waterloo; and sits on the board of several institutions including Paris’ Share Africa Project, Rainbow Educational Services Limited and Filmo Realty

He served as the Deputy Director General for Madam Oby Ezekwesili’s 2019 Presidential Campaign, he is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree and a member of Nigeria's Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council.

Omino Gardezi

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An investor and filmmaker who was previously CEO of Syrup/Digitas, Executive Director of CAA, and Director of LVMH; and has served as an advisor to Dior, Disney, and Amazon; and has started several media companies. He is presently working as an advisor to Harvard Innovation Lab, Nike and a series of exciting startups in US and Africa on a large-scale global economic data analytics initiative, with applications in investment management, risk management, public policy, and economic development, and raising digital health and frontier market tech venture funds.

His latest film is about Economic transformation of Rwanda

Akin Oyebode

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Akin Oyebode is the Special Adviser on Investment, Trade and Innovations to the Ekiti State Governor in Nigeria. In this role, he coordinates all domestic and international investment promotion activities in the state, including the planned development of Special Economic Zones and New Cities. Prior to his appointment, he was the pioneer Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, where he started a $75 million fund focused on creating jobs in Lagos State, Nigeria's economic capital and the 5th largest economy in Africa. The Fund's activities helped create over 100,000 jobs in 3 years, and contributed significantly to a 6% reduction in Lagos State's unemployment numbers, despite adding almost 700,000 people to its labour force.

He was also the pioneer Head of SME Banking at Stanbic IBTC Bank in Nigeria, where he was responsible for building a value proposition for Small Business customers and improving the access to finance for small businesses. He has served as a Technical Assistant on the Nigerian President's Transition Committee in 2015, and also was a member of the Central Bank of Nigeria's Secured Transaction and Collateral Asset Registry Committee. He is a 2019 Associate of the Archbishop Tutu Leadership Programme, and contributes on socio-economic matters affecting Africa.

Mwiya Musokotwane, MSc.

Co-Managing Partner/Co-Founder/CEO

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Mwiya co-founded Thebe and has been responsible for taking the Nkwashi project from ideation level through to present development. Mr Musokotwane is responsible for planning encompassing marketing, financial management, investment operations, civil works and the creation of its innovative payment plan models. Prior to the formation of Nkwashi, Mwiya worked as an investment analyst at African Life Financial Services Zambia Ltd, a unit of South African Investment giant Sanlam (through its holdings in BIFM of Botswana). At African Life Mwiya was responsible for helping manage over US$400 million in assets under management, specifically the management of capital allocation across fixed income, equity, property and private equity asset classes. Whilst there, he developed new credit risk management systems and equity portfolio management tools. Mwiya has a BA in Finance from Richmond the American International University in London, as well as an MSc in International Business Management from The University of Surrey; both in the United Kingdom. Mwiya brings a firm understanding of African asset management as well as a discerning understanding of strategy, marketing and consumer behaviour.

Linda Kavuka Kiguhi

African Programs Manager, SFL

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Linda is an International Trade and Free Market enthusiast, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, a Frederic Bastiat Fellow at the Mercatus Center, George Mason University and an alumnus of the Atlas Network’s Smith Fellowship. She serves as the Africa Programs Manager at the worlds’ largest youth movement for human freedom, Students For Liberty International.

Linda has represented Students For Liberty in partner projects including Fostering Issue Based Political Dialogue Towards 2017 General Elections in Kenya, August 2016 to November 2017 with Liberal Alliance Denmark. She also hosted the 10-day Principles of Free Markets Colloquium in Abuja Nigeria, aimed at countering violent extremism, for 90 Fellows brought together by the North East Regional Initiative supported by Creative International in April 2018.

Linda has contributed her views on trade, free markets, property rights and human freedom published by the Telegraph,, Atlas Network’s Freedom Magazine, the Free Market Foundation and the Young IPA podcast. She has presented at several free market conferences and fora in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Malawi, South Africa, Ghana and USA.

Linda holds a Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Nairobi. She is also an alumnus of the Atlas Network’s Think Tank MBA class of 2018.

Charter Cities Business Plan Contest

The Center for Innovative Governance Research is pleased to announce our Charter Cities Business Plan Contest. The first-place prize is $25,000. Second place receives $10,000. Charter cities are new cities with a special jurisdiction which adopt the best practices of commercial law.

Urbanization, poverty, and poor governance are among the greatest challenges facing the 21st century. Charter cities, new cities with a special jurisdiction that grant them a blank city in commercial law with which they can adopt best practices, address all three. Taking advantage of the rapidly growing urban population, charter cities create opportunity with governance structured for long term economic development.

Charter cities are both business projects and political projects. To be successful, charter cities must be profitable, but they also require legislation to create the special jurisdiction that allows for substantive improvement in the business environment.

The purpose of this contest is to identify capable teams to build charter cities. We will provide ample oversight and guidance to the winning teams and introduce them to investors, policy experts, and other individuals or groups necessary for their success. We expect the winning team(s) to seriously consider forming a company to build a charter city.

Applications should include:

  • Business plan detailing the team’s strategy to build a charter city
  • Deck which provides a high-level overview of the business plan
  • 5-minute video to introduce the founders and explain the business plan

Core Business plans should answer the following questions:

  • Team: Who are you? Why do you want to build a charter city? Why are you capable of building a charter city? Important considerations include the team’s relationships to the host country and team experience.
  • Host country: Why is the host country a good place to build a charter city? What are the relevant political considerations? How stable is the political system? What is the urbanization rate?
  • Location: Where will the charter city be built? Why is it a good location?
  • Land acquisition strategy: How will the team acquire land?
  • Anchor tenant: What is the ideal anchor tenant? How will you attract them? What is your competitive advantage?
  • Investments: Which investors will you raise money from? When and how?
  • Financial: How is the charter city profitable? Included project financials.
  • Legislation: What are your relationships with the host country? Do you have access to government officials necessary to pass charter cities legislation?
  • Governance: What is the governance structure for the charter city? What are the constraints to success in the host country? How will those constraints be changed in the charter city?

The initial submissions are due August 15th at 12pm EST. Please send your submissions and any questions to Mark at Before selecting winners, we will conduct interviews with the top applicants. The first-place winner will receive $25,000 (USD) and second-place will receive $10,000 (USD). The winners will be announced at the Inaugural Charter Cities Conference in Johannesburg on October 2nd and 3rd, for which the Center will cover the costs of airfare and accommodations.  

We will host a Zoom webinar on June 4th at 10am EST and June 11th 10am EST to answer your questions. Please use this link.

Venue & Accommodation

Sponsorship & Exhibition

For further information on Sponsorship and Exhibition opportunities please contact Tamara Winter from Center for Innovative Governance Research at


  Early Standard
Delegate USD 150 USD 200
Government Official USD 75 USD 100

You will receive a confirmation of your registration


Charter Cities
Dr. Mark Lutter - Executive Director

Sponsorships & Exhibition
Tamara Winter - Communications Lead

Conference & Registration
Shirley Gainsford – Event Manager