A great piece on the rapid urbanisation of Coastal Western Africa, which is growing at an astounding rate
The long read: By the end of the century, Africa will be home to 40% of the world’s population – and nowhere is this breakneck-pace development happening faster than this 600-mile stretch between Abidjan and Lagos
In just over a decade from now, its major cities will contain 40 million people. Abidjan, with 8.3 million people, will be almost as large as New York City is today. The story of the region’s small cities is equally dramatic. They are either becoming major urban centres in their own right, or – as with places like Oyo in Nigeria, Takoradi in Ghana, and Bingerville in Ivory Coast – they are gradually being absorbed by bigger cities. Meanwhile, newborn cities are popping into existence in settings that were all but barren a generation ago. When one includes these sorts of places, the projected population for this coastal zone will reach 51 million people by 2035, roughly as many people as the north-eastern corridor of the US counted when it first came to be considered a megalopolis.
But unlike that American super-region, whose population long ago plateaued, this part of west Africa will keep growing. By 2100, the Lagos-Abidjan stretch is projected to be the largest zone of continuous, dense habitation on earth, with something in the order of half a billion people.
“If it can develop efficiently, the region will become more than the sum of its parts – and the parts themselves are quite big. But if it develops badly, a tremendous amount of economic potential will be lost, and in the worst of cases, all hell could break loose.”