The African continent in 2017 is expected to house some of the world’s fastest growing cities. This is largely thanks to an array of factors including the abundance of natural resources, increasing levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), a young population and the growth in internet penetration rates. Yet in light of the rapid rate of urbanisation, urban issues related to housing and city infrastructure will remain a key challenge for African cities in 2017. The article aims to take a closer look at some of the fastest growing African cities forecasted for 2017 and forms part of the Economies in 2017 Strategy Briefing which outlines the key trends for the year ahead.
Digital revolution one of the factors behind impressive Kenyan city growth in 2017
The rapid uptake of high-speed broadband internet has been important to the impressive rates of growth posted by Kenyan cities in recent years. Internet enabled mobile devices have laid the groundwork for Kenya’s e-commerce boom; for example, in the country’s capital, Nairobi, a mobile phone was present in 93% of households in 2015, exceeding some Western European cities in this measure. Easier and cheaper access to the internet has been a major driver of the e-commerce boom in many Kenyan (and African) cities, spurring an online retailing surge. The subsequent growthof online retailing has been met with a rise in the demand for logistics and postal services with key international players including G4S, DHL and Wells Fargo, setting up offices across the country. DHL has even increased its presence in Kenya by expanding its branches into the country’s second tier cities, including Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru, to cope with the rising demand for postal services. Other factors contributing to growth across Kenya's cities include the rapid rise in incomes which is fueling a consumption boom as well as a rising population that is fostering greater demand for goods, services and real estate.
Top 10 Fastest Growing African Cities Forecast for 2017
Source: Euromonitor International
Other African cities poised for healthy growth in 2017
Some of the other rapidly growing African cities are located in Morocco, Nigeria, Cameroon and Egypt. The Moroccan city of Agadir is thriving thanks to its strong tourism industry whilst Tangier is making its mark as an industrial hub, with prominent manufacturing industries in textiles, electrical machinery and food. As well as benefiting from FDI, Abuja and Yaounde— Nigeria’s and Cameroon’s capital cities, respectively, are set to record some of the fastest rates of population growth in 2017 among African cities analysed by Euromonitor International. The population rise is expected to contribute to growth in demand for real estate, public services and infrastructure. The Egyptian city of Mansoura rounds of the top 10 fastest growing cities list. Mansoura’s economy took a significant stride forward since the discovery of natural gas reserves in 2003 and the rapid urbanisation of the city should continue into 2017.
Growth could act as a double edged sword to African cities
Urbanisation is undeniably one of the most important long term trends occurring in cities today. According to the World Economic Forum, Africa’s population is due to double in size by 2050, with 80% of all growth set to occur in cities. However, this presents a myriad of urban and environmental challenges which, undeniably, may counteract some of the economic inroads made by African cities. Lagos— one of three megacities in Africa (Cairo and Kinshasa are the others) has attracted large swathes of migrants from other parts of the country in search of job opportunities. For example, in 2015 alone, Lagos drew 88,000 net-migrants— a figure that is over five times greater than that of Cairo, (the latter is over twice that of Lagos in population size). Whilst this is fuelling growth, it is also contributing to the emergence of urban slums, excessive overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate transport infrastructure. Environmental issues related to climate change are also plaguing the growth of African cities as rising sea levels are putting an ever larger number of urban dwellers at risk from coastal flooding.
Attempts are slowly being made to reduce the number of informal settlements. In 2004 for instance, the Moroccan government launched the ‘cities without slums’ programme which in the space of seven years managed to add 100,000 new housing units and alter the face of 37 cities. Similar initiatives are springing up in other cities, however, a lack of governmental transparency and poor institutional structure in many African countries will create a hurdle for future urban development.