TWO out of every three people will live in cities by 2050, giving rise to the creation of megacities predominantly in China, India and Nigeria, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday.
A combination of demographic shifts and overall population growth will result in the more than 2.5 billion people gravitating to urban areas. Most of this growth is expecting to be concentrated in just a handful of countries.
“Together, India, China and Nigeria will account for 35 percent of the projected growth of the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050…It is projected that India will have added 416 million urban dwellers, China 255 million and Nigeria 189 million,” said Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) as it announced the findings in New York.
The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018. Asia, despite its relatively lower level of urbanization, is home to 54 percent of the world’s urban population, followed by Europe and Africa with 13 percent each.
This increased pressure is giving rise to so-called megacities – those with more than 10 million inhabitants. Currently, the world is home to 31 megacities – the largest of which is Tokyo with an agglomeration of 37 million inhabitants – but the report estimates that by 2030, the world could have 43, the majority of which will be in developing countries.
This raises concerns over the demand on resources, infrastructure and services in such sizable and dense populations. DESA stresses that sustainable urbanisation is essential to successful development.
“Many countries will face challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations, including for housing, transportation, energy systems and other infrastructure, as well as for employment and basic services such as education and healthcare,” the researchers said.
“Integrated policies to improve the lives of both urban and rural dwellers are needed, while strengthening the linkages between urban and rural areas, building on their existing economic, social and environmental ties.”
As for rural populations, while they have continued to grow since 1950, it is expected to reach its peak in the next few years, before declining steadily.
The report found that the global rural population is now close to 3.4 billion, but is expected to decline to 3.1 billion by 2050. Africa and Asia are home to nearly 90 percent of the world’s rural population in 2018. India has the largest rural population (893 million), followed by China (578 million).