Africa’s top cities have huge populations marked by high rural-urban migration from the youthful populations flock to urban centers in search of opportunities. It is essential to separate the distinction between the most populated, modern, and popular cities.
The world Bank Africa's Cities: Opening Doors to the World report summarizes most African cities as crowded with people rather than capital, high living costs, lose urban planning and property rights, among other challenges. However, the levels of modernization differ despite being marked with inequality issues facing just about any other city in the developing world.
Of the 40 or more cities with populations of over 1 million across the continent, here are 5 worth mentioning.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Johannesburg can also be identified as Jozi or Jo’burg, and stands out as one of the wealthiest cities in Africa, accommodating a population of 4.4 million. According to the 2019 Africa Wealth Report by New World Wealth and Afrasia Bank, Johannesburg is Africa’s wealthiest city. The MasterCard Cities Index lists identify Johannesburg as one of the most visited cities in Africa, housing the busy Oliver Tambo International Airport that serves 28 million passengers annually.
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As the continent’s second-largest city after Cairo in Egypt, not many know that this metropolis first began as a tent city, to a tin shantytown, to Edwardian storey buildings, to modern skyscrapers. For a while now, the Carlton Center has been the tallest building in Africa. Surrounding the city is the world’s largest man-made forest, comprising over 10 million trees.
Lagos clinches the title as Nigeria’s largest city and Africa’s most populous city. The city has an unbelievable population of 21.3 million and is known for its liveliness, culture, and commercial vibrancy. Lagos is the economic and entertainment capital of Africa, renowned for Nollywood and Afrobeats. The city’s economy is highly diversified in the sectors of transport, manufacturing, wholesale, construction, and retail. Lagos hosts Nigeria’s busiest ports and West Africa’s tallest building. There is a two-part view of Lagos; the island and the mainland where the latter is much more populated with people and industry. The city offers everything from schools, food, public transportation, and entertainment.
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Lagos is a major financial hub and generates $90 billion worth in goods and services. On the downside, the city leads the continent in the worst traffic congestion.
Ph: Santos Akhilele Aburime / Shutterstock.com
Kinshasa, DRC Congo
Kinshasa in the DRC is not only the largest city in the DRC but the capital. Located close to the Congo River, it is the second-largest French speaker across the globe. The population of Africa’s second-largest country by size is estimated at 14.34 million. Kinshasa is an entrepreneurial city with a population boom that is fueled by an annual urban migration of half a million people seeking new opportunities. It is impressive how an informal economy works hand in hand with the inefficiencies of the formal economy, creating a people full of resilience and improvisation. Ph: Katya Tsvetkova / Shutterstock.com
Cairo is Egypt’s largest city often depicted as the cradle of civilization, the city accommodates an impressive population of 20.4 million people. The city makes up two-thirds of the country’s GDP and remains the main economic hub. Cairo offers diverse opportunities from commerce, tourism, finance, and government services.
The greater Cairo accommodates 8 informal settlements where large population segments reside under the poverty line, living below $2 a day. Ph: MikeDotta / Shutterstock.com
Accra is the Ghanian capital and populous city inhabited by 4.1 million people. Ghana is the country’s main economic, financial, transport, technology, communications, and manufacturing hub. Accra’s economy makes up 10% of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product. The hardworking and ever-busy population has helped the country rise to be one of the top spots for business. Accra has benefited from receiving huge foreign investments.
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On the downside, Ghana is a coastal city exposed to rising sea levels and climate change. Ph: EiZivile / Shutterstock.com
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