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The Future of Cities: Visualizing how soaring urbanization will shape the global landscape

By Ross Dawson

Urbanization has been one of the most powerful and consistent trends shaping the last decades, and it looks set to continue apace in coming years. It is one of the few domains where we have reasonable forward-looking data, with United Nations providing World Urbanization Prospects, including predicted urban populations out to 2050.

The following visualization maps the slightly over 100 cities in the world that are forecast have a population of over 5 million in 2050. The size of the circle shows the forecast population in 2050, while the color shows growth rate, from dark green for no growth to red for very rapid growth.

The fastest growing cities are all in Africa, led by Ougadougou in Burkina Faso predicted to grow over 200% in the period 2010-2050, followed by Dar es Salaam and Bamako with 170-180% growth.

East and South Asia are also home to many fast-growing cities, including Xiamen, Hanoi, Surat and Dhaka. Kabul in Afghanistan is also predicted to be grow rapidly, at 127% over the period.

In contrast, cities in North and South America, Europe, Japan and Australia have only moderate growth in prospect, though cities such as Atlanta, Houston, Bogota, and Lima should grow by at least a third of their population before 2050.

Urbanization will continue to drive the demographic landscape, in particular defining the broader shifts in Africa and Asia.