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The Worlds Fastest Growing Cities

Hunched around the contours of the tube carriage at 8:45AM on a cold winter morning I begin to question my decision to travel into Central London. The underground platforms at Waterloo Station are ten people deep, most suffering from colds and coughs, only made worse by the drastic increase in temperature that results when thousands of people are crammed into a small space.

It’s not all bad. London is one of the greatest cities I know. Though at times it’s sheer size can be overwhelming. On these occasions I long for the peace and quite of the countryside. That said, London is relatively small and its population sparse, though these facts offer little consolation when crammed inside of a tube carriage.

The worlds cities are set to grow rapidly over the next decade. In China new cities appear overnight with young people flocking to them for work and leisure at an astounding rate.

In 2016, an estimated 54.5 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban settlements.By 2030, urban areas are projected to house 60 per cent of people globally and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants.

In this post I take a look at the cities that have grown the fastest since the Millennium, and those that are set to see the fastest growth rate over the next 15 years.

Methodology

The Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) of the United Nations Secretariat has the task of estimating and projecting levels and trends of populations for all the countries of the world.

In 2016 they published a report titled, The Worlds Cities in 2016, in which they looked at the historic (2000), current (2016), and future (2030) populations of 476 cities. The data from this was used for all analysis in this post.

Results

Cities in 2016

Count of 2016 City Populations

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Rank 2016 population Country or area City City Statistical concept 2016 City population (000’s)
1 Japan Tokyo Metropolitan area 38140
2 India Delhi Urban Agglomeration 26454
3 China Shanghai City Proper 24484
4 India Mumbai (Bombay) Urban Agglomeration 21357
5 Brazil São Paulo Metropolitan area 21297

Full ranking.

In 2016, an estimated 54.5% of the world’s population lived in urban settlements. During 2016 there were 31 cities with more than 10 million people, 8 cities with more than 20 million people, and 1 city, Tokyo, with more than 30 (almost 40) million people, 38.1 million people.

Fastest growing cities since 2000

Count of Cities by 2000-2016 Population Growth

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2000-2016 growth rank Country or area City City Statistical concept 2000 City population (000’s) 2016 City population (000’s) 2000-2016 % change
1 Thailand Samut Prakan City Proper 389 1980 509.00
2 Indonesia Batam City Proper 415 1498 360.96
3 China Xiamen Urban Agglomeration 1416 4738 334.60
4 Burkina Faso Ouagadougou City Proper 921 2923 317.37
5 Nigeria Abuja Urban Agglomeration 833 2586 310.44

Full ranking.

The average growth rate for the 496 cities considered was about 150%. Samut Prakan, Thailand grew by over 500% — the fastest growth rate of any city. In 2016 there were just 389,000 residents, now there are almost 2 million!

Over the period, just 21 cities saw populations get smaller. Khulnam, Bangladesh shrunk by about 19%, from 1.25 million people in 2000 to slightly over 1 million in 2016.

Average growth 2000-2016 rank Classification 1 Average growth 2000-2016
1 Africa 175.22%
2 South-Central Asia 166.69%
3 Asia 162.76%
4 Latin America and the Caribbean 131.65%
5 Oceania 123.42%
6 Europe 109.31%

Download table.

Africa’s cities grew by an average of 175% over the 16 years between 2000 – 2016, Europe’s grew by just 109%.

Fastest growing cities 2030

Count of Cities by 2016-2030 Population Growth

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2016-2030 growth rank Country or area City City Statistical concept 2016 City population (000’s) 2030 City population (000’s) 2016-2030 % change
1 Niger Niamey City Proper 1125 2363 210.04%
2 Burkina Faso Ouagadougou City Proper 2923 5854 200.27%
3 United Republic of Tanzania Dar es Salaam Urban Agglomeration 5409 10760 198.93%
4 Mali Bamako City Proper 2651 5231 197.32%
5 Uganda Kampala Urban Agglomeration 2012 3939 195.78%

Full ranking.

By 2030, urban areas are projected to house 60 per cent of people globally and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants. Two, Niamey, Niger and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso will both double in size.

The top 20 fastest growing cities are all in Africa. Only 12 cities are expected to shrink between 2016-2030.

Average growth 2000-2016 rank Classification 1 Average growth 2000-2016
1 Africa 158.61%
2 South-Central Asia 136.64%
3 Asia 123.35%
4 Latin America and the Caribbean 117.70%
5 Oceania 119.16%
6 Europe 105.97%

Download table.

The average growth rate will drop in all regions of the world between 2016-2030 when compared to the period 2000-2016 — although all regions will see growth. The average growth rate of all considered cities by 2030 is projected to be 128%.

Cities in 2030

Download chart.

2030 City population rank Country or area City City Statistical concept 2030 City population (000’s)
1 Japan Tokyo Metropolitan area 37190
2 India Delhi Urban Agglomeration 36060
3 China Shanghai City Proper 30751
4 India Mumbai (Bombay) Urban Agglomeration 27797
5 China Beijing Urban Agglomeration 27706

Full ranking.

The largest cities in 2030 are likely to remain largely unchanged in order when compared to 2016. Beijing, China enters the top 5 replacing Sao Paulo, Brazil which grow in population by 130% and 110% respectively.

tl;dr

The worlds cities are expected to grow by an average of 128% between 2016-2030 — that’s 25% slower than between 2000-2016. African countries will grow the fastest. Niamey, Niger will see the largest population growth of around 210% with Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso also doubling in size (+201%).

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

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