Africa's urban population has grown rapidly in recent years. The surge creates opportunities and challenges in equal measure as these cities struggle to adapt as more residents compete for urban resources that are stretched to the limit. However, population growth also creates new opportunities in fiscal, technological and social terms.
The largest African cities
Lagos, Nigeria – 21 million
Lagos City in Lagos State is Nigeria's largest city and economic capital. It lies on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the 7th fastest growing city in the world. It has a population of 21 million. The population is growing by 2 to 3% annually. Unlike other states that depend on oil revenues, Lagos has a diversified economy with thriving manufacturing, transportation, construction, service, wholesale and retail sectors. Lagos State generates $90 billion in goods and services annually. If it were a country, Lagos state economy would be the 7th largest in Africa. Two thirds of the population in Lagos are slum dwellers. Crime is also a problem in the city. ThatUnited StatesThe Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) rates crime as critical. Kidnapping, extortion, auto theft, mugging, rape, armed robbery and burglary are commonplace in the city.
Cairo, Egypt – 20.4 million
Cairo is Egypt's largest city and capital. It is considered the cradle of civilization. It has a population of over 20.4 million. According to a 2014 report by the Population Reference Bureau, the country's population is growing at a rate of 2.6 percent annually. Cairo is Egypt's economic hub, with two-thirds of the country's GDP generated in the metropolitan area. Textile and food processing, iron and steel production, consumer goods production, etc. are among the main job-creating industries in the city. Cairo is also a vibrant center for tourism, commerce, finance and government services. Since the January 2011 revolution, economic growth has been negatively impacted as food and medicine prices rose and unemployment rose. Crime is also a problem in Cairo, rated as high by OSAC. Greater Cairo has 8 overcrowded informal settlements and large sections of the population living below the international poverty line of less than $2 a day. Such settlements are plagued by low levels of education, high rates of malnutrition and poor health.
Kinshasa, DR Congo – 13.3 million
Kinshasa is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is next to theKongoFlow. After Paris, it is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. Kinshasa's population is estimated to be between 10 and 13.3 million. Although the DRC is rich in minerals, 64% of the population lives below the poverty line. Gas, oil, agriculture and timber are the other important resources that support Kinshasa's economy. Due to corruption and ongoing conflicts, a large part of the population does not benefit from the profits generated by the economy. The crime level is rated as critical by OSAC. Street gangs operate in the city making it very dangerous.
Luanda, Angola – 6.5 million
Luanda is Angola's capital and largest city. The city's population was reported as 6.5 million according to preliminary data in 2014, but the figure was later revised to 6.94 million. Luanda has the highest annual population growth rate in Africa. By 2030 there will be an estimated 9 million inhabitants. The city is home to the country's busiest seaport off the Atlantic coast. The seaport is a gateway for exporting petroleum, diamonds, iron ore and fish products. It is also used to import iron, steel, machinery, flour and coal. Wealth from the mining and oil sectors has fueled a construction boom in Luanda as high-rise office blocks and posh houses are built. Banks, finance, telecommunications and tourism are also booming in Luanda. Due to the lack of accommodation in the capital, hotel and rental costs are very high. In recent years, Luanda has gained a reputation as one of the most expensive cities. Crime levels in Luanda are classified as critical by OSAC, with threats emanating from gangs and gangsCyber criminals. Poverty rates in Luanda are high, with millions living in slums. About 55% of Angolans live on less than US$1 a day.
Nairobi, Kenya – 3.5 million people
Nairobi is Kenya's capital and largest city. It has an estimated population of around 3.5 million people, 60% of whom live in poverty. It is a center for trade, technology, industry and finance in East and Central Africa. Nairobi contributes 60% to Kenya's GDP. Major airlines and charter airlines operate from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, opening up East Africa to the rest of the world. Crime levels in Nairobi are rated as critical by OSAC, with robberies, burglaries, car thefts and street crime being rampant. In slums like Kibera and Mathare, where incomes are low, crime rates are high. The slums are considered to be the largest in Africa.
Mogadishu, Somalia – 2.1 million people
Mogadishu is Somalia's capital and largest city. It's one of the most dangerous cities in the world. No meaningful census was conducted in the city. It is estimated that it has a population of around 1.4 million people. A study by the US Demographia Consultancy reports that the population of Mogadishu is growing at 6.9% annually. Other estimates by TBN put the population at between 1.5 and 3 million. 43% of the population of this city live in abject poverty. 73% of the population lives on less than US$2 a day. Despite these challenges, Mogadishu is Somalia's administrative and economic center, with foreign countries providing aid to fund projects to boost the economy of this war-torn country. First Somali Bank was the country's first bank. It was founded in 2013.
Abidjan, Ivory Coast – 4.707 million
The 818 square mile city of Abidjan is the economic capital ofIvory Coast. As of 2014, it has an estimated population of about 4.707 million people. A study by the University of Ontario - Institute of Technology (UOIT) reports that Abidjan's population is growing at a rate of 2.83% annually. The city has a population density of 8578 per square kilometer. Abidjan is the center of industrialization and urbanization of Ivory Coast. The city accounts for 18% of national employment, 52% of secondary and tertiary urban employment and 50% of the country's GDP. Cocoa, oil and natural gas sectors are other important economic drivers. Abidjan has a refinery that processes crude oil. The extracted petroleum is then exported or used to process petroleum products locally.
Alexandria, Egypt – 4.7 million
Alexandria is a 115.8 square mile historic port and beach city on the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt. She was born in 331 BC. Founded by Alexander the Great. It is the second largest city in the country with a population of approximately 4.7 million people. Alexandria's population is growing at 1.7% annually. The city contributes US$46 billion to the Egyptian economy every year. Its economy is largely anchored by tourism. It is therefore referred to as the pearl of the Mediterranean. Nearly half of Egypt's industrial activity takes place in and around Alexandria, making it a major water consumer. Agriculture, growing population and rapid urbanization are some of the factors that increase water demand in Alexandria. The city is governed by a governor appointed by the President. Since the Egyptian revolution in 2011, there has been increased crime and terrorist threats in Alexandria.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - 3.4 million
The 540 square kilometer urban area of Addis Ababa is Ethiopia's capital and commercial center. It has a population of 3.4 million. In 2014,Bloombergreported that the city's population is expected to reach 8.1 million by 2040. Addis Ababa's average annual GDP is US$32.04 billion and is growing at an average rate of 12.18% annually. The city is an industrial and manufacturing center that contributes 4% to the country's economy. Addis Ababa is also experiencing a construction boom. In 2015, the first modern light rail was built in the city at a cost of $470 million. This rail service is the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, poverty in the city is high. 80% of rural urban dwellers live in slums. The crime rate is relatively low in the capital due to the presence of police officers, some of whom are in plain clothes. But petty crime such as pickpocketing or handbag theft also occurs.
Johannesburg, South Africa - 4.4 million
Johannesburg is South Africa's largest city and the capital of Gauteng, the country's most prosperous province. It has a population of 4.434 million. From 2001 to 2011, the population increased by 3.18%. Johannesburg generates 17% of South Africa's wealth and is the 27th largest urban economy in the world. The city is a vibrant center for manufacturing, retail, technology, fashion and service sectors such as hotels. Johannesburg is also a continental financial center with major world banks and Africa's largest stock in Sandton. Poverty is also rampant in the city, with over a million people living in the city's slums. Johannesburg is among the most dangerous cities in the world in terms of crime and murder. Annually there are about 28.2 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in the city.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – 4.36 million
At 565 square kilometers, Dar es Salaam is Tanzania's largest city. It is also the largest port city in East Africa and has a population of approximately 4.36 million people. According to a World Bank report, 70% of Dar es Salaam residents live on about $1 a day in informal, unplanned settlements that lack adequate roads, water and proper sanitation. Dar es Salaam is Tanzania's hub for industry, education and business. This former capital generates 70% of the national GDP. As a city by the sea, new external investments flow into the port expansion. In 2015, the World Bank signed a $565 million deal to double the port's capacity by 2020. With this capacity, Dar es Salaam can generate annual profits of US$2 billion. However, the city has a problem with crimes such as muggings, purse snatching, pickpocketing, armed robbery and burglary.
Casablanca, Morocco – 4.3 million
Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco. This port city has a population of approximately 4.3 million people. It is the main industrial, economic, commercial and financial center ofMorocco. The port of Casablanca is the largest in North Africa and one of the largest man-made ports in the world. Compared to the rest of the country, Casablanca's workforce is better educated. 12% of the city's population over the age of 15 has higher education, compared to 8.1% in the rest of the country. Poverty reigns in the slums on the outskirts of the city. Between 700,000 and a million people live in these slums, who lack clean water and basic amenities. Drug trafficking, prostitution and Islamic radicalization are taking place in the slums, threatening the tranquility of Casablanca as a whole.
Accra, Ghana – 4.1 million
Accra is the capital and largest city ofGhana. It has a population of around 4.1 million. The average growth rate of Accra's population from 2000 to 2010 was 3.1%. Accra is the country's premier trade, manufacturing, technology, transportation, innovation and communications hub. It is also the gateway to the world through Kotoko International Airport, the country's largest airport. The city's formal and informal economy contributes approximately US$3 billion to the country's economy. This corresponds to 10% of Ghana's GDP. Accra is largely safe, but there have been cases of muggings on beaches and crowded places and pickpocketing in markets.
Durban, South Africa – 3.4 million
Durban is a port city in the Kwazulu Natal province of South Africa. It is the third largest city in the country after Cape Town and Johannesburg. It has Africa's largest port. Durban and its metropolitan area is home to a population of 3.4 million. According to Statistics South Africa, the average annual population growth in Durban from 2001 to 2011 was 1.13 percent. As a port city, Durban handles more cargo than other South African ports. Manufacturing, agribusiness, tourism and technology are other areas that anchor the economy of this city. Durban has also distinguished itself as a global financial center that attracts international investors. Although the city is in the prosperous province of Kwazulu Natal, 3 million people live below the poverty line. In addition, crime spills out of the slums into the cities, hotels and beaches.
Kano, Nigeria – 2.8 million
Kano is the capital of Kano State in northern Nigeria. It has a population of around 2.8 million people. It is the country's second largest city by population after Lagos. According to a 2013 Kano State Government Investor's Handbook report, the city has an annual population growth rate of 3.5%. Kano is the economic center of Northern Nigeria. It has an average annual gross domestic product of US$29.38 billion. Kano functions as a regional trading hub, serving as a market for over 300 million people. The biggest threat in Kano comes from terrorist attacks, which are known in the north of Boko Haram. These attacks take place on market days, legal and religious holidays. Bad governance, poverty and unregulated migration cause security problems in the city.
Ancient infrastructure stretched to the breaking point
Adapting to the increasing number of people in urban areas remains the greatest challenge for African cities. This is because in some cities the existing infrastructure dates back to the European colonial era on the continent. As a result, continued population growth in these cities is straining infrastructure and degrading the quality of life. This effect exposes these populations to poor living conditions and vulnerability to future diseases and vices.
Largest cities in Africa by population
|Rang||Biggest Cities in Africa||Estimated metro population|
|1||Lagos, Nigeria||21.0 million people|
|2||Cairo, Egypt||20.4 million people|
|3||Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo||13.3 million people|
|4||Luanda Angola||6.5 million people|
|5||Nairobi, Kenya||6.5 million people|
|6||Mogadishu, Somalia||6.0 million people|
|7||Abidjan, Ivory Coast||4.7 million people|
|8||Alexandria, Egypt||4.7 million people|
|9||Addis Ababa, Ethiopia||4.6 million people|
|10||Johannesburg, South Africa||4.4 million people|
|11||Dar es Salaam, Tanzania||4.4 million people|
|12||Casablanca, Morocco||4.3 million people|
|13||Ghana Ghana||4.1 million people|
|14||Durban, South Africa||3.4 million people|
|fifteen||Kano, Nigeria||2.8 million people|
James Karuga inworld facts
- world facts
- 15 Largest Cities in Africa