Global City Trends

April 2022

The briefing takes a global perspective of the key trends occurring in cities over 2016 to 2021. It goes on to provide forecast level data and insights for cities over 2021-2040, covering areas such as the economic, population and consumer spending changes. The briefing also lists and examines the five top trends shaping cities, namely Digital Cities, Clean Energy, Urban Space and Environment, Seamless and Clean Mobility, and Cities of the Future.

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Key Findings

Top 1,000 cities

The world’s 1,000 largest cities by GDP generated 57% of global GDP in 2021. At the same time, they accounted for only 26% of the global population and occupied just 3.5% of land area. This highlights the immense wealth, productive capacity and economic influence of the world’s largest cities.

Urban mobility

Passenger car numbers rose in the majority of the world’s 1,000 largest cities over 2016-2021. This is despite significant efforts to reduce private car travel in favour of alternative mobility, such as cycling, walking or using public transport. Developing and emerging cities have been behind the high growth of passenger cars, as consumers benefit from rising disposable incomes, which is accompanied by an increasing desire for big item spending.

Airport industries

Airport passenger numbers are rising in cities after a difficult year in 2020, which saw international travel plummet as a result of the COVID-19-related enforced lockdowns. London, the largest airport passenger market globally, saw one of the largest declines in passenger numbers at its airports in 2020, due to very strict lockdown and entry rules.

5 trends

The five trends that are shaping the long-term future of cities are Digital Cities, Clean Energy, Urban Space and Environment, Seamless and Clean Mobility, and Cities of the Future.

Internet

By 2040, internet access will be almost ubiquitous in cities, with most boasting household access rates above 90%. This is expected to open numerous opportunities for digitising services in areas such as finance, mobility and foodservice. Emerging and developing cities are anticipated to lead the growth in internet access over the next two decades.

Ageing

Population ageing challenges are expected to be rampant in East Asian cities over 2021-2040. The sheer growth of the population aged 65 and over, coupled with low birth rates, will challenge the social welfare systems of East Asian cities. At the same time, however, there will be opportunities to provide tailored products and services for the elderly in areas such as healthcare and entertainment.

Population growth

Cities in sub-Saharan Africa will dominate population growth over 2021-2040. Among the fastest growing cities are Luanda in Angola and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, with both expected to become megacities. Fast-growing cities will face numerous challenges related to housing, overcrowding and sanitation.

Economic growth

Economic growth will be led by poorer countries in emerging and developing regions. Some of the fastest growing cities over 2021-2040 will be located in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This includes cities such as Dhaka and Addis Ababa, which are projected to be among the fastest growing worldwide, with their GDP predicted to more than quadruple in real terms.

Introduction

Scope
Key findings (1)
Key findings (2)
Global cities snapshot
Key trends impacting cities
Areas of opportunity

Cities today

World cities in 2021: Top 1,000 cities summary
Nearly 90% of North America’s GDP in 2021 was concentrated in 370 cities
Middle class growth dominated by Eastern European and Chinese cities
Necessity spending remains the highest among African cities
Sustainability awareness sees most cities record improving air quality levels
Passenger car numbers continue to rise despite the increasing focus on alternative mobility
Rising unemployment is a challenge for emerging and developing cities
Travel industries recover in 2021 but are still below pre-pandemic levels

Global outlook

Sub-Saharan African cities to record the fastest population growth
East Asian cities to display the largest ageing shift
US cities to remain the most affluent by 2040 despite a large disparity in incomes
By 2040, the internet will be readily accessible in most cities
Future economic growth to be dominated by poorer cities with high economic potential
Four Chinese cities to appear among the top 10 largest by GDP in PPP terms by 2040
Chinese cities to record disposable income levels on a par with advanced economies
Number of USD100 billion+ consumer markets to more than double in emerging markets

Top 5 trends

Key trends impacting cities
Digital cities
Clean and sustainable energy systems
Urban space and environment
Seamless and clean mobility
Cities of the future

Rankings by indicator

GDP Ranking
Disposable income ranking
Disposable income by band
Consumer expenditure ranking
Population ranking
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