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Latin America's boom town

The fastest growing cities in the world

Latin America's boom town

Do you live in a big city? It is actually likely that you do. By 2030, urban areas around the world are projected to house 60 percent of all people. As many as one in three people will live in cities with at least half a million habitants. And the areas are growing in population, rapidly. Here, we list the fastest growing cities in the world. Santa Cruz in Bolivia makes the list at number 14.

1. Beihai – China
Population now: around 1.7 m people
Annual growth 2006 – 2020: 10.58 percent

Like many coastal cities in China, Beihai’s population has swelled with migrants from inland rural areas during the last 20 years. The reason? The government has boosted local infrastructure projects and local industry interests consequently since the 1980’s. In 2008, when the recession hit everywhere, the local government made sure that the investments in infrastructure stayed steady. Beihai is not by any means a megacity – yet – but its growing pace is impressive. It tops our list of fastest growing cities by far!

Beihai street

2. Ghaziabad – India
Population now: around 2.3 m people
Annual growth 2006 – 2020: 5.20 percent

It is sometimes referred to as the “Gateway of UP” because it is close to New Delhi, on the main route into Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India. In Ghaziabad, many important trade roads and railways meet. In itself, it is mainly an industrial city and the steel industry has always been big. During recent years, more and more construction work have been initiated that contribute to the growth in population. Ghaziabad has been connected by railway to the rest of India since the late 1880’s, but the industrial boom came during the post-independence era, after 1949.

Ghaziabad skyline

3. Sana’a – Yemen
Population now: around 3.9 m people
Annual growth 2006 – 2020: 5.00 percent

The capital of Yemen, and also its biggest city. Although torn apart by war and conflicts, Sana’a is rapidly growing in population. People are mainly moving in from rural areas, and the jobs are in the public sector. As a consequence of the massive immigration to the city, Sana’a has outgrown its Old City core. Sana’a is also one of the oldest populated places in the world. According to popular legend, it was founded by Shem, the son of Noah from the Bible. Besides the old parts of town, that is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List, one also finds a “new city”. The old part is much smaller and retains the city’s ancient heritage and mercantile way-of-living while the latter is an urban sprawl with many suburbs and modern buildings. The newer parts of the city were largely developed in the 1960s and onward when Sana’a was chosen as the republican capital.

Sanaaa City

4. Surat – India
Population now: around 4.4 m people
Annual growth 2006 – 2020: 4.99 percent

In the old days, Surat used to be a large seaport, but today it is mostly famous for its diamond cutting and polishing industry, that produces a lot of job opportunities. Besides this, Surat has a history of producing textiles, including silk. It is often called The Silk City of India. On top of textile making and diamond cutting, Surat’s prosperity lies in the information technology area. In May 2015, tech giant IBM chose Surat among 16 global locations for its smart cities program to help them address challenges like waste management, disaster management and citizen services.

Surat City

5. Kabul – Afghanistan
Population now: around 4.6 m people
Annual growth 2006 – 2020: 4.74 percent

The capital of Afghanistan is also its largest city. Kabul is located high up in a narrow valley between the Hindu Kush mountains, with an elevation of 1,790 meters, making it one of the highest capitals in the world. During recent years, despite lingering conflicts in the area, the city has undergone rapid growth. In 2013, a $1 billion USD contract was signed to commence work on the “New Kabul City”, which is a major residential scheme that will accommodate 1.5 million people. Over the last decade, the United States has invested approximately $9.1 billion into urban infrastructure in Afghanistan.


6. Bamako – Mali
4.45 percent

7. Lagos – Nigeria
4.44 percent

8. Faridabad – India
4.44 percent

9. Dar es Salaam – Tanzania
4.39 percent

10. Chittagong – Bangladesh
4.29 percent

11. Toluca – Mexico
4.25 percent

12. Lubumbashi – Congo
4.10 percent

13. Kampala – Uganda
4.03 percent

14. Santa Cruz – Bolivia
3.98 percent

15. Luanda – Angola
3.96 percent

16. Nashik – India
3.90 percent

17. Kinshasa – Congo
3.89 percent

18. Nairobi – Kenya
3.87 percent

19. Dhaka – Bangladesh
3.79 percent

20. Antananarivo – Madagascar
3.73 percent

Sources: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Pouplation Division (2016), The World’s Cities in 2016 – Data Booklet (ST/ESA/SER.A/392), City Mayors Statistics, Financial Times (2017), Wikipedia.

Latin America's boom town

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