Megacities: A Look Ahead

From London to Luanda

The UN predicts there will be 43 megacities around the world by 2030.

The world is growing more quickly than ever before.

Today, there are 33 cities worldwide with populations that exceed 10 million inhabitants*. The UN projects that, by 2030, that figure will increase to 43. Of those ten cities poised to earn the title “megacity” by 2030, three are particularly intriguing because of their economic and geographical positioning: London, UK, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Luanda, Angola.

London is on track to increase its population from 9.04 million in 2018 to 10.23 million in 2030. While that rate of population growth might seem tame, it’s the sociopolitical factors churning behind the scenes that make London a stand-out specimen.

The after-effects of the politically divisive 2016 referendum to exit the EU will play a major role in shaping what London, the UK at large, and the EU look like in the coming decade. Currently the world’s most-visited city as calculated by number of international airport arrivals, London’s overall health depends on cross-border transit. For an economy so strongly invested in financial and media services—and distributing those services to EU member nations—London’s position as a global leader depends on the manner by which revised trade and work-visa agreements are established.

Formerly the capital of Tanzania and still its largest city, Dar es Salaam is projected to increase its population from 6.05 million inhabitants in 2018 to an astonishing 10.79 million by 2030. This remarkable pace of growth does not come without challenges. According to a 2012 UN estimate, 70% of Dar es Salaam’s residents live in informal housing structures, which often do not have adequate infrastructure support for basic services such as electricity and fresh water.

Nearly doubling population in the next ten years will certainly place even more strain on public utilities, so service providers capable of reliably delivering these comforts under tough circumstances are poised for great opportunity.

What’s more, Tanzania has been progressively shifting toward a more robust private-sector economy after departing from the socialist Ujamaa policies of past decades. Acting in many ways as Tanzania’s business-and-government backbone, Dar es Salaam stands to be quite well-positioned on the African continent if it can power through its current growing pains.

Angola’s main port and capital city, Luanda, also expects impressive population growth: from 7.77 million inhabitants in 2018 to 12.13 million in 2030. One significant driving force of Luanda’s population growth in recent years has been people fleeing armed conflict in other parts of the country.

Like Dar es Salaam, Luanda finds itself struggling to meet the infrastructure needs of a such a rapidly expanding population. Angola as a whole, however, is rich in natural resources such as diamonds and petroleum products, so there is great potential for infusing public monies into massive urban centers like Luanda to ensure basic services are received.

Angola faces a unique challenge in that it is currently one of the most expensive countries in the world for foreigners to live in.

This creates difficulty in enticing foreign investors to participate in joint ventures within the country, and it creates a symbolic divide between Angola and the rest of the African continent.

By embracing efforts to form cross-border partnerships and sorting out its current troubles with urban infrastructure, Luanda has the potential to benefit greatly from Angola’s rich stores of natural resources.

The demographic trends that result in the formation of these massive urban centers are only increasing. By 2030, there will be 66 cities worldwide with populations between 5 and 10 million inhabitants, waiting in the wings to become the next megacities.

Each will have its own set of challenges. Whether it’s staying globally viable in the face of new divisions, as for London, or quickly making extensive upgrades to infrastructure systems, as in Dar es Salaam or Luanda, being a megacity does not come without some difficulty.

*All population figures drawn from: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2018). The World’s Cities in 2018—Data Booklet (ST/ESA/SER.A/417).

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