BY 2030 the 10 largest African cities in Sub-Saharan Africa will be forces to reckon with. According to the latest Global Economy Watch by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) by 2030 the “next 10” are projected to add around 34m people to their populations and have the potential to triple their combined GDP by around $140billion.
In 2014, Cairo, Kinshasa and Lagos are the only megacities in Africa, but three more are expected to emerge by 2030, as Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Johannesburg (South Africa), and Luanda (Angola) are each projected to surpass the 10m mark. The number of large cities with populations between 5-10m in Africa is also expected to increase, from three in 2014 to 12 in 2030.
(PWC: Population trends in the top 3 and next 10 cities in SSA)
While most large Western corporations are already active in at least one of the three largest cities of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): Kinshasa, Johannesburg and Lagos, PWC says that CEOs are increasingly looking at other African cities - since cities, which enable closer interaction, are the typical entry points for expanding businesses. As labour costs in Asia start to increase and pressure remains to keep prices competitive, these SSA hubs offer attractive alternatives.
Here – in order of decreasing size - we take a quick look at these cities, noting that that they all either provide crucial links with rural areas or between cities and international borders or they are a concentrate of much of the national economic activity, commerce and government:
A port on the Atlantic Ocean and the most populous city in Nigeria, Lagos is a metropolitan area that originated on islands separated by creeks. It is the commercial and industrial hub of Nigeria, and unlike the rest of the country, 90% of the population of Lagos have access to electricity, with the city consuming 45% of the energy of the country.
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
This huge, sprawling capital city is the second largest “Francophone” urban area in the world after Paris. Once a site of fishing villages, it now stretches along the Congo river and faces the capital of the neighbouring Republic of Congo, Brazzaville. It is the administrative, economic and cultural centre for DR Congo.
Johannesburg, South Africa
The world’s largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline, Johannesburg is the capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa. While Johannesburg is not one of South Africa’s three capital cities, it is the seat of the Constitutional Court and has the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa. The city is also the source of a large-scale gold and diamond trade, due to its location on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand range of hills.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Started as a fishing village in the mid-19th century, Dar es Salaam is seen as the capital city of Tanzania in everything but name. Once the capital, it is the country’s largest and richest city, the locus of central government bureaucracy and a regionally important economic centre. Located on the East African coast, it has become one of East Africa’s most important ports and trading centres
The world’s third most populous Portuguese-speaking city, behind only São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the capital of Angola is located on the coast of the Atlantic ocean. Following decades of civil war it has become the country’s primary port and major industrial, cultural and urban centre. Getting rich off revenue from oil and other natural resources, the government has ploughed big money into construction in the city.
Sudan’s capital is a modern city with an ever-increasing number of glass tower blocks built. It is built where the two Niles meet - where the White Nile, flowing north from Lake Victoria, and the Blue Nile, flowing west from Ethiopia come together. The huge, spread-out city is actually made out of three distinct cities; Khartoum, Khartoum North or Bahri, and Omdurman, which are divided by the Nile and its two arms.
Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire
Originally a coastal fishing village, today Abidjan is a West African cultural hub as well as the former political capital and primary economic centre of Cote d’Ivoire. Following the completion of the Vridi canal, which connected the city on the Ébrié lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean, Abidjan’s place as a trading centre was secured.
An established hub for business and culture, Nairobi is Kenya’s capital and the largest city in the country. Home to thousands of Kenyan businesses and over 100 major international companies and organisations, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the main coordinating and headquarters for the UN in Africa and Middle East, the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON) - Nairobi is now one of the most prominent cities in Africa, both politically and financially.
This ancient trading city is the capital of Kano State in Northern Nigeria. The city’s Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport is the main airport that serves northern Nigeria. The state itself is Nigeria’s second largest industrial center and the largest one in northern Nigeria.
Located on the Cap-Vert peninsula, this West African hub is the capital of Senegal and the westernmost city on the African mainland. This fact has transformed the city into a major regional port as it is well-positioned as a departure point for trans-Atlantic and European trade.
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
The capital of Burkina Faso and the administrative, communications, cultural and economic centre of the nation. The city has incredible networks in West Africa with an international airport, rail links to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast and a paved highway to Niamey, Niger, south to Ghana, and Southwest to Ivory Coast. Ouagadougou is also home to the Ouagadougou grand market, one of the largest markets in West Africa.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Also known as the “Political Capital of Africa”, the capital city of Ethiopia is where the African Union and its predecessor the OAU are based. This thriving metropolis hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and numerous international organisations.
The capital city of Oyo State and the third largest metropolitan area, by population, in Nigeria, after Lagos and Kano. It is located in south-western Nigeria and is a prominent transit point between the coastal region and the areas to the north. The city has an airport, Ibadan Airport, and sits on the main railway line from Lagos to Kano.