Future of the Environment

Africa’s fastest-growing cities are the most vulnerable to climate change globally

A woman carries her child as she arrives at a polling station before the opening of the voting process during the presidential and parliamentary election in Temeke district of Dar es Salaam, October 25, 2015. Tanzanians voted on Sunday in presidential and parliamentary polls in which the ruling party is expected to fend off rivals led by former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who has tapped into mounting anger over corruption and the slow pace of change. REUTERS/Drazen Jorgic - GF20000031743

At least 79 of the world's fastest growing cities are at risk. Image: REUTERS/Drazen Jorgic

Abdi Latif Dahir
Editorial Intern, Quartz Africa
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Future of the Environment?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Future of the Environment 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:

Future of the Environment

When it comes to climate change, Africa is in the eye of the storm. This is especially true of its fast-growing cities, where a change in climate patterns is threatening rapidly-expanding populations and investment opportunities, a new report shows.

High birth rates and increasing rural-urban migration means Africa has 86 out of 100 of the world’s fastest growing cities. At least 79 of those cities, including key political and commercial hubs, are faced with “extreme” risks due to climate change, claims new research from risk consultancy firm Verisk Maplecroft.

With rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, and changes in rainfall patterns leading to floods or severe droughts, these cities will face a strain on their essential services including healthcare amenities and disaster mitigation systems

The study combined United Nations projections on population growth in over 1800 cities along with data on climate change vulnerabilities to assess the threat of extreme weather in cities over the next three decades.

Image: Verisk Maplecroft

The results showcase how Africa remains the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, even though it contributes the least to global warming in both absolute and per capita terms. The increased threat comes as emissions are on the rise too for the first time in four years according to the United Nations, which last month warned of “unprecedented changes” needed to limitglobal temperature increases to 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).

Have you read?

Verisk notes the scale of the risk to African cities threatens the capital flows that have streamed into these markets to take advantage of burgeoning economies, emerging middle-class consumers, besides cheap labor. As the full impact of climate change unfolds, it predicts cities and nations will experience damage to key infrastructure, property, and assets, besides much-needed agricultural outputs.

Image: Verisk Maplecroft

Previous research has also shown intensifying heat levels will also impact worker productivity, lead to a surge in operational costs stemming from greater energy demand, increase negative effects on export values, and affect sectors ranging from mining and oil to gas and manufacturing.

Verisk now puts a number to this, noting the amount of GDP in African nations vulnerable to extreme climate patterns will grow from $895 billion in 2018 to $1.4 trillion in 2023—a significant 48% of the entire continent’s GDP.

Image: Verisk Maplecroft
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:
Future of the EnvironmentCities and UrbanizationClimate ChangeAfrica
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.

This explorer and conservationist is training citizen scientists to save the planet

Rebecca Geldard

February 27, 2024


About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum