Cities are the future—and fhe fastest growing cities on the planet will be the laboratories to test new infrastructure and community development methods. Humanity has moved from lush jungles to crowded concrete jungles. And the world is changing at a faster and faster pace.

The trend toward urbanization speeds up every year, with 54% of humanity living in cities today. In 2010, the world changed forever as more people lived in cities than in rural areas for the first time. This trend is happening all over the world. Rich metropolises are attracting people just as quickly as poor and even war torn cities.

Here are the 10 fastest growing cities, according to City Mayors, that could put humanity to the test in the near future.

1) Beihai, China

Beihai Silver Beach
Image: Wikicommons: Gbrlhtclcq

Population: 1,539,300

Growth rate: 10.58%

The world’s fastest-growing city is still relatively small —in China at least. One and a half million people barely registers on the list of large cities in the world’s most populous nation. The small cities can be forgotten when China’s top 14 cities all have over 10 million people. But if Beihai was in the United States it would be competing with Philadelphia for the 5th largest city in the country.

The port city has been a historical hub for major trade areas in Guangxi, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan. Since 2006, Beihai has returned to its former glory as trade hub. The world’s fastest growing city will mirror its home country, the world’s second largest economy’s growth.

2) Ghaziabad, India

Image: Wikicommons: Charitsharma

Population: 2,381,452

Growth rate: 5.20%

Ghaziabad is often called the “Gateway of UP,” because of its location between India’s capital city Delhi and the nearby Utter Pradesh state. The modestly sized city (by India’s standards), is growing because of its role as the administrative headquarters for its state as well as its leading role in education, commerce and industry. The city benefits from its proximity to Delhi and its strategic location along key rail lines. These lines allow goods as well as people to flow freely too, from and through the fast growing city. A plan to extend the Delhi metro lines to Ghaziabad should ensure the city continues to grow.

3) Sana'a, Yemen

Image: Wikicommons: AnasALhajj

Population: 1,937,451 (Estimated in 2005)

Growth rate: 5%

The largest city in Yemen is a tale of woe. Under the constitution, Sana’a is the capital. After a 2014-2015 coup, the internationally recognized seat of government moved to Aden. The recent violence in the historic city is only the latest tragedy to strike the war-torn nation. The city’s old district was so beautiful it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The old city had been inhabited continuously for more than 2,500 years. The buildings were often referenced as the “oldest skyscrapers in the word.” Sections of this international treasure were left in ruins after airstrikes by Saudi Arabia.

Despite the violence, Sana’a had continued to grow in the last decade, mostly because civilians had few other places to flee the fighting. This is an example that urban growth can come for tragic reasons as much as it can come for positive economic reasons.

It remains to be seen what will happen to the city as the violence continues to grip the nation.

4) Surat, India

University Road at night in Surat, India.
Image: Wikicommons: Rahul R Bhadane

Population: 4,501,610

Growth rate: 4.99%

Surat is the largest city on this list so far. The southern Indian city is the eighth largest in the country but only the 34th largest in the world. The metropolis has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, both in population and in GDP. An 11.5% annual growth in GDP from 2001 to 2008 positioned the city as a prime business and eventually technology hub.

The city won the “best city” award by the annual Survey of India’s City-Systems in 2013. The independent survey looks at a city’s legal systems, policies, institutions and accountability mechanisms. Microsoft even chose to partner with Surat to make it the first “smart city” in India.

It’s no surprise that people are flocking to this up-and-coming technology hub.

5) Kabul, Afghanistan

A view of the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
Image: Aulfat Rizai

Population: 3,678,034

Growth rate: 4.74%

Kabul may sit in the general public consciousness as the capital of a war-torn nation, but it is much more than that. The city has served as a major trade hub in Central Asia for more than 3,500 years. Even while the city and nation are still gripped by insurgent attacks and tribal clashes, the national population has rapidly urbanized since the US-led invasion in 2001.

The most popular destination for those wanting to be urbanites was of course the capital. City. NATO and Afghan government attempts to rebuild the city have gone in fits and spurts but, overall, the city is rapidly improving. And it seems the people agree. They are flocking to the city, making it the fifth-fastest growing in the world.

6) Bamako, Mali

Bamako Cathedral, Mali
Image: Wikicommons: Upyernoz

Population: 1,809,106

Growth rate: 4.45%

The fastest-growing city on the African continent, Bamako is the third metropolitan area on this list to be surrounded by violence. In the last decade, Mali has battled a long standing separatist movement in its north, a civil war and Islamists. Fighting has mostly been confined to the northern half of the country leaving the centrally located city relatively unharmed. Though attacks have hit Bamako. During the strife people continued to stream into the city for protection and the chance at a better life.

The city has a rich history going back to the Paleolithic era, through the rise and fall of the Mali Empire in the early Middle Ages and into the post-colonial era.

A fast-growing urban center, a person walking around Bamako can alternately see flashes of an agrarian city and a modern bustling industrial center. The city is regionally known as a hub of music after local artists Saalif Keita and Ali Ali Farka Touré achieved international fame in the 1990s. It’s clear this fast developing city will help define the African continent in the 21st century.

7) Lagos, Nigeria

Clockwise from top: Victoria Island skyline from the Gulf of Guinea, Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge, Apapa Port, National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, The Ikeja City Mall, and The Lagos Island CBD.
Image: Wikicommons: Bappah

Population: 13,123,000

Growth rate: 4.44%

Lagos is the second-largest city on the continent of Africa, trailing only Egypt’s Cairo. In truth the “city of Lagos” is very hard to define. The national government has struggled to quantify the exact borders and population of this now-sprawling “agglomeration.” A 2006 national population estimate said 8 million people. The state government responded with its own survey that listed 16 million people. A 2015 estimate put the greater metropolitan area at about 21 million people. In this sense, Lagos is a prime example of how hard it can be to define the boundaries of a “city” in the modern era of urban sprawl.

Whichever number you believe, Lagos is enormous. Its growth rate is generally agreed upon. And its central economic role for the nation is undisputed. The majority of the nation’s commerce occurs in the city’s central business district. Further, the Port of Lagos is the oil exporter’s largest trading hub and one of the largest ports on the continent.

Lagos has grown. It will continue to grow. The only mystery will be how to specifically define its expanding borders and ever growing population.

8) Faridabad, India

Image: Wikicommons: RISHABHNAGPAL20

Population: 1,404,653

Growth rate: 4.44%

The third (and final) entry on this list for India, Faridabad is the economic engine for Haryana State. It was once estimated that the city provides over 50% of the tax revenues collected in its state. Similar to Surat, Faridabad is located near the capital Delhi and is part of Prime Minister Modi’s Smart Cities initiative.

Earlier this year, India overtook China as the world’s fastest growing economy. By 2022 the UN predicts India will overtake China again with the largest population in the world.

It makes sense that this fast-growing nation would have a plethora of fast growing and dynamic cities like Faridabad.

9) Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Image: Wikicommons: Chen Hualin

Population: 4,364,541

Growth rate: 4.39%

Dar es Salaam’s importance stretches far beyond Tanzania. The city is an economic hub for eastern Africa and a regional cultural leader. By some reckoning, the culture of Dar es Salaam sets the standard for a large part of the African culture. TV programs produced and set in the Tanzanian capital are popular across the continent. The city’s role in regional and international trade have also made the city very cosmopolitan.

The beaches, late-night spots, music, shopping and overall sense of fun in Dar es Salaam have made it a popular destination for people from around the world. It’s easy to see why this thriving economic hub is attracting people from across the country, the region and even the world.

10) Chittagong, Bangladesh       

This is a photo of Agrabad was taken from C&F Tower of Agrabad. Two noticeable building can be seen in this photo, from right World Trade Center and Makka Madina Tower. Taken in December 2014.
Image: Wikicommons: Raihan Rana

Population: 2,581,643

Growth rate: 4.29%

If you needed more evidence that South Asia is growing very fast, then here it is: Chittagong located in Bangladesh means that the sub-continent has 4 cities in this top 10 list. If you include Afghanistan in South Asia, then 50% of the world’s fastest growing cities are all basically neighbors. The economic and social powerhouse that is this region is urbanizing and growing at record levels.

Chittagong is the economic center of Bangladesh. Home to many of the nation’s oldest companies, it is also a vibrant trade hub for the region. The port of Chittagong is the largest on the Bengal Sea making it crucial to its neighboring nations.

The city itself has grown substantially but is facing a growing socio-economic divide. The city and surrounding area have a poverty rate about 26%, with half of that living in extreme poverty. It’s no surprise Chittagong is still a desirable destination when the national poverty rate is about 32 percent. Chittagong must look much more attractive to people setting up better lives than national worst Rangpur division with its 42.3 percent poverty and 27.7 percent extreme poverty.  

The world is changing at a faster and faster pace. Cities will be the key to humanity’s future. Consumption patterns, sustainability efforts and quality of life for all may be determined by the fastest growing cities. How they respond to infrastructure and public services demands may create a model for the world to follow over the coming century.


Demand Equity

The Top 10 Fastest Growing Cities In The World

By Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer