Cities and Urbanization

These are Africa’s fastest-growing cities

People and traffic move along a busy street in Lagos, Nigeria.

A tale of two cities ... rapid urbanization could make or break Africa's economies Image: REUTERS/George Esiri

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Cities and Urbanization?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Cities and Urbanization is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Cities and Urbanization

It’s already Nigeria’s largest city, but it’s still growing – and fast. The population of Lagos is predicted to increase by an astonishing 77 people every hour between 2010 and 2030, according to United Nations data, making it the fastest-growing city in Africa.

Strong economic growth, led by an oil boom, has driven the rural poor towards the city, and the population surge is also being driven by high birth rates and the return of Nigerians living abroad.

These are Africa's fastest-growing cities
Image: UN World Urbanization Prospects, 2014

Following in second place is Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Cairo completes the top three. The figures are calculated using actual population figures for 2010 and forecasts for the likely populations in 2030, taken from 2014’s UN World Urbanization Prospects report.

Can the infrastructure keep up?

Seventy-seven people an hour. That’s 1,848 people a day, or 12,946 a week, or 56,179 a month – roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Greenland moving to Lagos every month. The big question is whether Africa’s urban infrastructure can keep up.

Lagos already suffers from electricity supply problems and its road system is nearly paralysed. However, $50 billion worth of new infrastructure is due to transform the city. A rapid-transport system, new power plants and Africa’s first suspension bridge are planned to make life easier for Lagos residents.

This is a pattern repeated across Africa, as expanding populations put a strain on urban resources. However, African cities are acting to build resilience and reduce the risks associated with expanding populations.

 Population Growth

In an article for the World Economic Forum, Robert Muggah of the Igarapé Institute and David Kilcullen of Caerus Global Solutions look at the situation in cities across the continent. They argue that African cities are at a tipping point. If leaders react to the rapid urbanization, “innovation, employment and economic growth will follow”. For them, Africa’s whole future is a tale of two cities: those that react, and those that don’t.

The World Economic Forum on Africa is taking place in Kigali, Rwanda from 11 to 13 May.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Cities and UrbanizationAfrica
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

From São Paulo to Venice: 15 cities with ambitious zero-carbon projects

Victoria Masterson

April 12, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum