Scenes from Monrovia, Liberia during Ebola quarantine: It was a deadly reminder that African cities are growing with both opportunities and risks. (Photo/Morgana Wingard/UNDP).

By 2050 Nearly 1.4 Billion Africans – 58% Of Continent’s Population – Will Live In Cities. Here’s What It Means In 10 Charts


AFRICA’S future is urban, as cities and towns will increasingly shape how people live on the continent says a new paper by the Institute of Security Studies’ African Futures programme.

Authored by Ciara Aucoin and Julia Bello- Schünemann, the paper that shall background a conference in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, notes that by 2030, Africa will host six of the world’s 41 megacities.

By 2050 over half of the world’s urban population is expected to live in Asia and over one-fifth in Africa, and Africa’s urban population is likely to have almost tripled compared to current levels.

In 2016 the continent has had the world’s fastest annual average urban population growth rate at approximately 3.9%.

Likewise by 2050, the paper projects, over 70% of West Africans are likely to live in urban areas – on par with the expected global situation in 2050.urban-1

It says by 2035 half of Africa’s people are likely to reside in towns and cities – matching the current global situation. Today, approximately 488 million Africans live in cities, and in 2050 it could be close to 1.4 billion people or 58% of the continent’s population.

This urban transition, the authors observe, is critical because it has the potential to accelerate economic and social development, but they warn that the structural hurdles are huge.

This is because Africa’s urban population boom is happening in a context of slow structural transformation, poverty, inequality and urban violence.

Rapid and sustained urban population growth is bound to be a challenge to the provision of land, finance, infrastructure and other critical services, not least because of the massive backlogs that exist already.


The present and expected level of urbanisation of Africa’s regions differs considerably. Currently, North Africa is Africa’s most urbanised region.

West Africa is the continent’s second most urbanised region, and is set to overtake North Africa by 2032 as the continent’s most urbanised region. By 2050 over 70% of west Africans are likely to live in urban areas – on par with the expected global situation in 2050.urban-2

Central and southern Africa are forecast to cross the 50% urban population threshold by around 2034, with central Africa leading the transition, while eastern Africa/the Horn is the only region in which the majority of the population is likely to still live in rural areas by 2050.

In contrast to other parts of the developing world, where rural population numbers are shrinking, the number of Africans living in rural areas is set to increase in the medium and even long-term future.

Nevertheless, the share of the rural population relative to the overall population will decrease because urban population growth is outpacing rural population growth.

In 2016 approximately 92 million people are living in Nigeria’s urban areas.

No other country in Africa has more urban residents. Nigeria is likely to remain at the top of this list out to 2050, when 308 billion people are expected to populate the country’s cities and towns.

By 2030 54 million residents of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are forecast to live in urban areas, making it the country with the second largest urban population on the continent. Ethiopia is set to have ascended to third place by 2040, while Tanzania is showing particularly fast rates of urban population growth.

The country is on a path to become the fourth most populous African country in terms of urban dwellers by 2050.

African countries are incredibly diverse in terms of levels of urbanisation, i.e. the percentage of people living in urban areas. Currently, almost 90% of Gabon’s population lives in urban areas while hardly 12% of Burundians live in an urban area.

The report has 13 charts and 4 tables. In addition to the two above,  we select here some of the most insightful or interesting, hence the reason why the listing is not sequential:-








ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Julia Bello-Schünemann is a Senior Researcher with the African Futures and Innovation programme at the Institute for Security Studies AND Ciara Aucoin is a researcher with the African Futures and Innovation programme at the ISS. 

    Leave a Reply