The population of Africa is growing rapidly. The continent already has an astounding population of 1.1 billion people and the continent is projected to have over 2 billion people by 2050. As economies are developing and more people look for work, there is rapid migration occurring across Africa into urban centers. This rapid urban development is leading to the creation of African Megacities (cities boasting more than 10 million people) and by 2050, it is predicted that 60% of Africans will live in urban areas. These new, rapidly growing cities will be the cornerstones of Africa throughout the century and beyond.
Currently, Africa is home to three megacities (Lagos, Cairo, and Kinshasa) and that number is expected to double in the next 20 to 30 years as cities such as Luanda, Dar Es Salaam, and Johannesburg are experiencing mass influx from rural areas. This rapid urbanization has major upsides but comes with many challenges as well. The growth of some cities like Kinshasa, has been so rapid, that construction and urban planning have been incapable of keeping up. As a result of this and economic struggles, approximately half of this city’s population resides in slum environments. Furthermore, the development of these megacities leads to increased competition for resources.
There are further issues that develop from the rapid creation of megacities. Megacities, especially those that have population growth that out speeds proper infrastructure development, can suffer from severe traffic congestion as their roads are not capable of handling the increased usage, as well as homelessness, as there are more people than available housing quarters. There is also an increase in health risks and environmental damage. Increased traffic and manufacturing can lead to the development of lung-damaging smog and unsanitary, dense living quarters propagate the ease of disease spreading.
The development of megacities can have potential benefits that can alter the livelihood of many Africans for the better. In these new megacities, there are many migrants that find work and are able to support their families. These large, concentrated populations are more likely to spawn individuals that make use of opportunities that they would not have access to in rural areas. More have access to schools and more go on higher education. More youth attending school allows for there to be more people with knowledge and skills. These people become entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians and doctors. As such, a middle class can begin to grow and there can be increased focus on social and economic stability. Hence, leading to more opportunities for later generations.
Many of these megacities and soon-to-be megacities, have development plans in the works that will modernize them. Luxury apartments, plazas, and upscale department stores are some of the construction plans currently in the works. These development plans have only become feasible as of recently and they are signs that African urbanization is in fact, leading to higher standards of living. Megacities in Africa are a certainty, but only time will show if they truly benefit the African people.