Dubai’s transformation from a fishing village to a global real estate hub has been nothing short of remarkable. From having the world’s tallest building to man-made islands in the shape of a world map, the U.A.E.’s most populous city has never shied away from ambitious construction projects.
Today’s motion graphic video, from Knight Frank, is a unique overview of Dubai’s half-century long growth spurt.
Ambition into Action
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, summed up the ambition of his people in a quote:
Dubai will never settle for anything less than first place.
Indeed, the city’s economic growth has been nearly unparalleled over the past two decades. Unlike neighboring emirates, Dubai had a modest supply of oil and knew that diversifying their economy would be vital for future success.
As oil production leveled off in the early 1990s, the tourism industry ramped up. In 2002, reforms allowed foreigners to own real estate and that industry boomed overnight. Today, oil accounts for a minuscule 1% of Dubai’s GDP.
As the Middle East begins looking toward a post-oil economy, Dubai’s success provides an obvious example for other cities in the region to mimic.
Sky High Ambition
In addition to quirky attractions like the 250,000 sqft indoor ski hill, the desert city boasts a number of record-setting projects:
- World’s tallest building – Burj Khalifa
- World’s tallest hotel – JW Marriott Marquis Hotel
- World’s largest shopping center – Dubai Mall
- World’s largest indoor theme park – IMG Worlds of Adventure
- World’s Busiest Airport (International Travelers) – Dubai International Airport
- World’s longest fully automated metro network – Dubai Metro
Though Dubai is full of blockbuster development projects, the city’s urban form is perhaps best known for one specific attribute: height. For a city of only 3.0 million people, Dubai has a remarkable number of skyscrapers. In fact, the city trails only New York and Shanghai for the number of buildings taller than 150m (492ft).
For context, during the period of 2007–2014 Dubai essentially kept pace with high-rise development in the United States as a whole. (Dubai’s population is 0.9% the size of the United States.)
The B Word
Just as Dubai was hitting its stride, the global financial crisis blew in and choked the pipeline of money flowing into the growing city. In 2009, headlines around the world proclaimed that Dubai’s real estate bubble had finally burst.
Though the financial crisis was a setback, the city’s development industry has recovered admirably. Going into 2017, there were 11,600 active projects worth over $800 billion. As well, Expo 2020 is expected to add fuel to the twin engines of Dubai’s economy: real estate development and tourism.
With the U.A.E. set to further relax foreign ownership roles, the city’s economic prospects remain as sunny as its weather forecast.
Ranking the World’s Most Populous Cities, Over 500 Years of History
This two-minute animation shows changes in the last 500 years of historical rankings for the world’s 10 most populous cities.
Animation: The Most Populous Cities, Over 500 Years
What do Beijing, Tokyo, Istanbul, London, and New York City all have in common?
Not only are they all world-class cities that still serve as global hubs of commerce, but these cities also share a relatively rare and important historical designation.
At specific points in history, each of these cities outranked all others on the planet in terms of population, granting them the exclusive title as the single most populated city globally.
Ranking the World’s Most Populous Cities
Today’s animation comes to us from John Burn-Murdoch with the Financial Times, and it visualizes cities ranked by population in a bar chart race over the course of a 500-year timeframe.
Beijing starts in the lead in the year 1500, with a population of 672,000:
|Rank||City||Population in Year 1500|
In the 16th century, which is where the animation starts, cities in China and India were dominant in terms of population.
In China, the cities of Beijing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Nanjing all made the top 10 list, while India itself held two of the most populous cities at the time, Vijayanagar and Gauda.
If the latter two names sound unfamiliar, that’s because they were key historical locations in the Vijayanagara and Bengal Empires respectively, but neither are the sites of modern-day cities.
The 1 Million Mark
For the first minute of animation—and up until the late 18th century—not a single city was able to eclipse the 1 million person mark.
However, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, the floodgates opened up. With more efficient agricultural practices, better sanitation, and other technological improvements, cities were able to support bigger populations.
Here’s a look at the biggest cities in the year 1895:
|Rank||City||Population in Year 1895|
|#2||🇺🇸 New York||3,712,000|
|#6||🇷🇺 St. Petersburg||1,286,000|
In the span of roughly a century, all of the world’s biggest cities were able to pass the 1 million mark, making it no longer a particularly exclusive milestone.
Modern City Populations
Finally, let’s look at the modern list of the top 10 most populous cities, and see how it compares to rankings from previous years:
|Rank||City||Population in Year 2018|
|#6||🇧🇷 Sao Paulo||21,698,000|
|#7||🇲🇽 Mexico City||21,520,000|
|#10||🇺🇸 New York City||18,713,000|
Interestingly, the modern list appears to be a blend of both previous rankings from the years 1500 and 1895, listed above.
In 2018, cities from China and India feature prominently, but New York City and Tokyo are also included. Meanwhile, Latin America has entered the fold with entries from Mexico and Brazil.
The Future of Megacities
If you think the modern list of the most populous cities is impressive, check out how the world’s megacities are expected to develop as we move towards the end of the 21st century.
The 8 Ways Urban Demographics are Changing
These pivotal trends show how urban demographics are aiding in the transition to a very different economic and investment landscape.
The 8 Ways Urban Demographics are Changing
Cities are what keep the global economic machine humming.
Over 80% of the world’s economic output is derived from activities in cities – and more specifically, it’s estimated that 60% of GDP growth occurs in just the top 600 urban centers.
Given the above, it’s fair to say that the destiny of humankind is directly linked to what happens in major cities. Further, how urbanization plays out over time could end up having a significant ripple effect on the economy, and we should pay close attention to such trends.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Raconteur, and it showcases eight different ways that urban demographics are evolving.
Below we will summarize the changes, along with potential impacts on the economy:
1. A Higher Percentage of Urban Dwellers
Between 1950 and 2018, we went from 30% to 55% of the world’s population living in cities. This has been driven largely by today’s middle and high income economies in places like North America, South America, Europe, and Japan.
The next stage of urbanization will see us move to 68% – more than two-thirds of the world’s population – living in these urban conglomerations. It will be driven by countries in developing markets, creating a potent investing megatrend along the way.
2. The Countries Driving Growth
It’s estimated that three countries will combine for 35% of all urban population growth.
|Rank||Country||Growth in Urban Population (2018-2050)||% of Global Urban Growth|
|World||860 million people||35%|
|#1||India||416 million people||17%|
|#2||China||255 million people||10%|
|#3||Nigeria||189 million people||8%|
In total, there will be 2.5 billion more urban dwellers in 2050 than there are today. Many of these people will experience rising incomes in cities, increasing the global middle class to an unprecedented size.
3. Peaking Rural Populations
On the flipside, it appears the world’s rural population has nearly flatlined, with anticipation that it will peak in absolute terms in the next couple of years. Rural populations have been slowly growing since 1950 until this point.
4. The Rise of Megacities
There will be 43 megacities by the year 2050, which is more than quadruple the amount that existed back in 1950.
The changing geography of the world’s megacities will be one of the major forces that shapes the future of the global economy and accompanying investment trends.
5. New Population Centers
By 2050, more than 70% of the world’s urban population will live in Asia or Africa. Meanwhile, North America and Europe will combine for closer to 15% of that total.
The role of de-urbanization is often downplayed or forgot about when discussing urban demographics, but it is an interesting issue.
Factors such as falling fertility rates, economic contraction, and natural disasters are actually shrinking the size of some cities. In fact, McKinsey predicts that 17% of cities in developed regions will see a drop in population between 2015-2025.
7. Disparities in Urban Growth
The rate for urban population growth is actually trending down across all types of economies – however, these rates come from very different starting points.
High income countries are currently averaging growth of less than 1% per year, and this will continue to decline to below 0.5% per year by 2050. Over the same time period, low income nations will go from 4% to 3% per year.
8. Changes in Average Age
The age distributions in large cities within developed nations will begin to skew older, something we’ve shown previously when looking at the median age of every continent.
The biggest impact here may be felt on dependency ratios in the workforce. With a smaller pipeline of new workforce entrants and a burgeoning population of seniors, this changing ratio is one of the most significant stories impacting urban demographics.
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