Ranked: The World’s Fastest Growing Cities
By 2025, the world’s population will reach over 8.1 billion people.
Most of that population growth will be concentrated in cities across Africa and Asia. To help paint a detailed picture, this map uses data from the United Nations to rank the top 20 fastest growing cities in the world in terms of average annual growth rate from 2020 to 2025.
Full Speed Ahead
The majority of the world’s fastest growing cities are located in Africa—in fact, 17 of the 20 are located on the continent, with four of the 20 cities being located in Nigeria specifically.
Population growth is booming across the entire continent, as many countries retain high birth rates. According to the World Bank, the 2019 fertility rate (births per woman) in Sub-Saharan Africa was 4.6, compared to the global fertility rate of 2.4.
|City||Country||Continent||Annual Growth (2020-2025p)|
|Kabinda||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||Africa||6.37%|
|Bunia||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||Africa||5.63%|
|Goma||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||Africa||5.14%|
Nigeria’s economy is largely based on petroleum which has resulted in the country becoming one of the strongest economies in Africa. This, coupled with a high birth rate and a resulting young population, has given the country a strong and rising workforce.
However, the population growth in Nigeria is both a blessing and a curse. The success of the economy, among other factors, has resulted in excessive rural-to-urban migration. This mass exodus from rural areas has led to less farming, which means the country now needs to import basic food staples at a high cost.
In Mozambique, Tete and Quelimane are growing 5.56% and 5.14% respectively. The country is expected to experience strong economic growth after facing contractions due to the pandemic. Forecasts predict that the Mozambiques’s economy will grow 4% by 2022.
Implications of Fast Growth
All of the top 20 fastest growing cities are located in either Africa or Asia, and they are far outpacing growth on other continents, such as Europe, for example.
Fastest Growing Cities: Europe vs. Global
|Europe's Fastest Growing Cities||Growth Rate||World's Fastest Growing Cities||Growth Rate|
|🇷🇺 Balashikha, Russia||2.01%||🇳🇬 Gwagwalada||6.46%|
|🇷🇺 Tyumen, Russia||1.88%||🇨🇩 Kabinda||6.37%|
|🇦🇱 Tiranë (Tirana), Albania||1.63%||🇧🇩 Rupganj||6.36%|
|🇳🇴 Oslo, Norway||1.38%||🇳🇬 Lokoja||5.93%|
|🇷🇺 Sochi, Russia||1.33%||🇦🇴 Uige||5.92%|
|🇬🇧 Coventry-Bedworth, UK||1.32%||🇧🇮 Bujumbura||5.75%|
|🇸🇪 Stockholm, Sweden||1.25%||🇹🇿 Songea||5.74%|
|🇨🇭 Lausanne, Switzerland||1.23%||🇨🇳 Xiongan||5.69%|
|🇷🇺 Krasnodar, Russia||1.22%||🇳🇬 Potiskum||5.65%|
|🇷🇺 Surgut, Russia||1.17%||🇨🇩 Bunia||5.63%|
|🇷🇺 Podolsk, Russia||1.16%||🇲🇿 Tete||5.56%|
|🇮🇪 Dublin, Ireland||1.12%||🇦🇴 Cuito||5.48%|
|🇬🇧 London, UK||1.12%||🇮🇳 Hosur||5.38%|
|🇳🇱 Utrecht, Netherlands||1.11%||🇧🇯 Abomey-Calavi||5.27%|
|🇸🇪 Göteborg, Sweden||1.07%||🇳🇬 Nnewi||5.18%|
|🇫🇷 Toulouse, France||1.07%||🇦🇴 Malanje||5.17%|
|🇸🇪 Malmö, Sweden||1.05%||🇨🇲 Mbouda||5.16%|
|🇫🇷 Montpellier, France||1.04%||🇲🇿 Quelimane||5.14%|
|🇫🇷 Bordeaux, France||0.99%||🇺🇬 Kampala||5.14%|
|🇨🇭 Genève, Switzerland||0.99%||🇨🇩 Goma||5.14%|
By 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to close to 2 billion people and roughly half will be under the age of 25. This represents an enormous labor force and opportunities for innovation and growth. In fact, in navigating the pandemic, Africa is already starting to capitalize on digital advances in both traditional and new sectors.
China has its eye on Africa, as evidenced through their multiple investments in infrastructure projects in the continent. Additionally, NATO countries have recently committed to investing similar amounts in Africa to counter China’s influence.
In spite of the economic potential, increased city sizes could be problematic for some of these countries. They will need to adapt to the issues associated with mass urbanization, like pollution, overcrowding, and high costs of living.
Population booms can lead to massive economic growth, a larger (and younger) working population, and a growing domestic consumer market.
As the aforementioned cities continue their rapid expansion, and as people continue to flock to growing megacities in Africa and Asia, it could represent the beginning of an important economic shift that is worth keeping an eye on.
Ranked: The World’s Largest Cities By Population
This graphic uses data taken from latest official censuses and projections to rank the largest cities by population.
Ranked: The World’s Largest Cities By Population
The world has experienced rapid urbanization over the last century.
Today, more than 4.3 billion people live in urban settings, or 55% of the world’s population.
But what is the world’s largest city? Answers to that question will vary greatly depending on which lines are being used to demarcate city boundaries and measure their populations.
The graphic above uses data taken from the latest official censuses and projections to rank the top cities based on the three most common metrics.
The Largest Cities by City Proper
Our first metric is based on the city proper, meaning the administrative boundaries.
According to the United Nations, a city proper is “the single political jurisdiction which contains the historical city center.”
The Chinese city of Chongqing leads the ranks by this metric and has an administrative boundary the size of Austria, with an urban population of 32.1 million.
The city’s monorail system holds records for being the world’s longest and busiest, boasting 70 stations. Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, is among the world’s top 50 busiest airports. Additionally, the city ranks among the globe’s top 50 hubs for scientific research.
Other Chinese cities dominate the ranking by this metric:
The first non-Chinese city, Delhi, has been experiencing one of the fastest urban expansions in the world.
The United Nations projects India will add over 400 million urban dwellers by 2050, compared to 250 million people in China and 190 million in Nigeria.
The Largest Cities by Urban Area
This measurement largely ignores territorial boundaries and considers a city a contiguous, connected built-up area.
Demographia describes urban areas as functioning as an integrated economic unit, linked by commuting flows, social, and economic interactions.
By this metric, Tokyo leads the ranking:
|#8||🇧🇷 Sao Paulo||23.1m|
|#10||🇲🇽 Mexico City||21.8m|
The city proper houses about 10% of Japan’s population. If the greater Tokyo metro area is considered, including cities like Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba, then Tokyo’s total population surpasses 37 million—about 30% of the country total.
Consequently, even with one of the world’s largest railway systems, trains in Tokyo are incredibly crowded, with a boarding rate of 200% during peak time in the most overcrowded areas. The city is also famous for its Shibuya Crossing, the busiest intersection on the planet.
The Largest Cities by Metropolitan Area
Tokyo also leads by our final metric, metropolitan area.
This measurement is similar to urban area, but is generally defined by official organizations, either for statistical purposes or governance.
In the United States, this takes the form of metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), such as Chicago-Naperville-Elgin or Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler.
|#6||🇲🇽 Mexico City||21.8m|
|#7||🇧🇷 Sao Paulo||21.7m|
|#9||🇺🇸 New York||20.1m|
As the global urban population continues to rise, new cities, especially in Africa and Asia, are expected to vie for the “largest” tag soon.
The UN projects that by 2050, 68% of the world will live in urban areas.
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