10 African cities whose economic importance will triple by 2030

Downtown Dar es Salaam. Image: Daniel Hayduk/AFP/Getty Images.

Global Economy Watch, a monthly report released by PwC, usually leads with stories on US employment figures or an analysis of the Eurozone crisis. In August, though, it turned its attention to a more neglected part of the world, running an article titled, “Africa: Growth is on the horizon but where should you look?”

The audience for such reports are the senior executives (CEOs, CFOs and COOs) referred to as occupants of “the C-suite”. Most of these guys haven’t spent a great deal of time thinking about sub-Saharan Africa’s potential as an investment target. But, it turns out, they should.

Historically, foreign investment has focussed on the “top 3” cities in the region – Johannesburg, Kinshasa, and Lagos. They have the largest populations in the region, and that alone gives them a significant economic footprint, and most multinational companies will now have a presence within them.

But PwC predicts that, over the next 15 years, most of the growth will come from the “next 10” biggest cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. These include Nairobi (Kenya), Abidjan (Cote D’Ivoire), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Dakar (Senegal). Here are the full 10, mapped:  

There are several reasons why PwC have focused on these 10. First, there’s demographics. By 2030, the region’s population will have overtaken every continent but Asia, and Africa will account for around a third of the world’s population. By 2040, PwC predicts, the continent will have the biggest labour force in the world (the result, one assumes, of a youthful population). 

UN predictions suggest that, thanks to the process of urbanisation, the “next 10” cities will grow even faster than the region as a whole: most of these cities will double in size by 2030. The populations in Dar es Salaam and Luanda will both rise to around 10m by 2030, putting them on a par with Paris or London.

Add to that the standard processes of growth, and the fact that many of these countries are sitting on oil and gas reserves, and the economic importance of these cities is going to soar. In all, the IMF predicts, the size of their combined economy will triple by 2030, rising by about $140bn in total.


There are, of course, obstacles to this type of swift development. One major difficulty is overpopulation, and the accompanying shortfall in infrastructure and resources.  In Nigeria, which contains three of these top 13 cities, only 20 per cent of the roads are paved (in the UK, it’s, er, 100 per cent). All 10 cities have low levels of literacy, and schools that aren’t good enough to plug the gap.

Many of the countries’ governments also lack the legal infrastructure required to manage bigger, more developed economies. The path to business deals in some countries is still occasionally smoothed by bribery: no less a figure than Albert Stanley, one time CEO of Halliburton, was jailed after paying officials bribes to secure a natural gas contract in Nigeria.

The motivations of potential investors may cause problems of their own. As an explanation for why Africa will become increasingly attractive, PwC points to the expectation that labour costs in Asia are going to soar. There’s a danger that the firms most likely to invest in the region will be those seeking cheap labour and ways to cut corners.

PwC advises its C-suite readers to invest in these cities. But it wants them to support infrastructure, (by building roads, say); and to pay for skills development programmes for the cities’ rapidly expanding workforces. Whether they’ll listen is another question.

 
 
 
 

A warped mirror: on gentrification and deprivation on London’s Caledonian Road

The London Overground crosses Caledonian Road. Image: Claude Lynch.

Capital cities are, more often than not, a focal point for the stark divide between rich and poor – places where the most economically deprived meet the most economically empowered. In London, these divides can be more than stark: they can be close, even intimate, and there are districts where crossing the street can be like entering a different world. One such street is the Caledonian Road.

Known local as “the Cally”, Caledonian Road runs for about a mile and a half, from Kings Cross to the Nags Head junction in Holloway, and was built in 1826 to provide a new arterial route to the north from the West End. At first, developments on the road were sparse; among the first notable buildings were the Royal Caledonian Asylum, which gave the road its name, and H.M. Prison Pentonville.

For some time, the northern half of the road was seen as far removed from central London, which stymied development. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 19th century residential development really got going. By the time Caledonian Road station opened on the Piccadilly line in 1906, the area was flush with Victorian terraces.

These, though, mainly lay on the eastern side. To the west, the proximity of King’s Cross prompted the development of heavy industry, particularly the clay kilns that were helping to build Victorian London proper. The divide had begun:  the east side of the street, the area known as Barnsbury, was notably quieter and calmer than the west side. Ever since the 19th century, the ‘V’ formed by Caledonian Road and York Way has been known for a high incidence of gang violence and social problems.

As in many parts of London, the end of the Second World War brought a chance to start from scratch. Many of the slums to the west of the Cally had been bombed to smithereens, and those that remained still lacked gas and hot water.

But this was the era of municipal dreams: Islington council cleared the slums and constructed the Bemerton Estate. Instead of reflecting the industrial history of the area, the estate reflected Barnsbury back at itself, treating Caledonian Road as some sort of warped modernist mirror. The square gardens of Barnsbury were reimagined as the spaces between the highrises of Bemerton, and this time, they were actually square.

The estate was immediately popular, its open design prompting a renewed sense of community in the west. But it didn’t last.

Square gardens on one side, not-so-square on the other. Image: Google Maps/CityMetric

As far back as the 1950s, Islington had already become synonymous with gentrification. Forty years later, before moving to Downing Street, Tony Blair’s London residence was Barnsbury’s leafy Richmond Crescent. House prices in the area have gone through the roof and now Barnsbury is mainly home to a the professional elite.


At the same time, though, Caledonian Road’s warped mirror has given Bemerton the exact opposite: in spite of attempts to rejuvenate it, downward spiral of deprivation and antisocial behaviour have blighted the estate for some time The promise of inviting square gardens and communal living has been inhibited by crime and poverty; the gardens lie empty, while those in Barnsbury thrive.

The disparity of wealth across Caledonian Road is regrettable. That’s not just because it speaks to a wider segregation of London’s rich and poor – a phenomenon exemplified last year by the Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington & Chelsea, the richest borough in Britain. It’s also because, in the Bemerton Estate, planners had thought they saw an opportunity to offer more Londoners the idyll of square gardens and leafy streets, often reserved for the richest.

It might be too much to claim the estate as a failure; events such as the Cally Festival aim to bring together both sides of the road, while other council programmes such as Islington Reads help to foster a greater sense of neighbourhood.

Road should never divide us; rather, they should unite those who live on either side. The spirit of Caledonian Road should cross the gap – just like the railway bridge that bears its name.