These cities are the hubs of Africa’s economic boom

South Africa is no longer the only place on the continent that has urban wealth clusters

These cities are the hubs of Africa’s economic boom
Image: Visual Capitalist
  • The wealth of Africans is projected to grow by a third over the next decade
  • The continent's wealth is agglomerating in a number of urban clusters, in the south, east and west
  • Wealth is collected in a few other places - isolated capitals and mini-clusters stretching from Morocco down to Angola

Over the past decade, 19,000 Africans have become dollar millionaires. Africa's combined wealth has grown by 13% - 3% just in the last year alone. The combined individual wealth of all Africans is $2.3 trillion today – by the end of 2027, it will have increased by a third to $3.1 trillion. Clearly, it's boom time in Africa.

This map offers a revealing perspective on the wealth of the continent. The African subsoil may be resource-rich in many places, but as elsewhere in the world, it's in the great urban centres that money accumulates. And people too: by 2100, 13 of the world's 20 biggest megacities will be in Africa.


South Africa still boasts the main concentration of wealth in Africa, but no longer the only one.Image: Visual Capitalist

And this overview of Africa's richest cities, based on the The AfrAsia Bank Africa Wealth Report 2018, indicates where clusters of wealthy cities are developing across the continent, as well as showing a few more isolated locations of money aggregation.

  • Long the most developed nation on the continent, South Africa – with four of Africa's ten richest cities – continues to be the economic engine of Africa's southern half. With a total GDP of $722 billion, South Africa as a whole continues to be the continent's wealthiest country, but on a per-capita basis it comes second after the tiny island nation of Mauritius ($32,700).
  • The East African economy is dominated by a string of wealthy cities, from Uganda's capital Kampala via Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's biggest city.
  • In West Africa, a similar transnational conglomeration runs from Abidjan in Ivory Coast over Ghana's Accra to Lagos and Abidjan in Nigeria.
  • In Morocco, Casablanca's wealth is flanked by that of Tangier and Marrakesh. In Egypt, Cairo dwarfs but not completely outshines Alexandria.
  • The 'isolates', in descending order, are four capitals: Luanda (Angola), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Windhoek (Namibia) and Lusaka (Zambia).

Here are Africa's 10 wealthiest cities:

​1. Johannesburg (South Africa): $276 billion

Jo'burg city centre.

Image: Brand South Africa

Fittingly, Africa's richest city was built on gold – on the Witwatersrand Gold Rush of 1886, to be exact. It's the commercial capital of South Africa and the wider region.

2. ​Cape Town (South Africa): $155 billion

View of Cape Town's City Bowl from Lion's Head, with Signal Hill and Cape Flats in the distance

Image: Martin Power, CC BY-SA 3.0

The city with Africa's highest prime residential rates, at around $6,100 per square metre (similar to DC or Berlin) also is an important hub for financial services, retail and tourism.

3. Cairo (Egypt): $140 billion

Rooftops of Cairo

Image: Luc Legay, CC BY-SA 2.0

Real estate, financial services and construction are some of the key sectors in this city of 9 million, the biggest metropolis in the Middle East.

4. Lagos (Nigeria): $108 billion

The Golden Plaza in Ikoyi, Lagos. On the left the Falomo Bridge to Victoria Island

Image: Ulf Ryttgens, CC BY-SA 1.0

It may no longer be the country's capital, Lagos still is the gateway for 80% of Nigeria's exports – and the centre of the burgeoning film industry, a.k.a. Nollywood. At 21 million inhabitants (2016 est.), it's Africa's largest metropolis, as well as one of the world's fastest-growing cities.

5. Durban (South Africa): $55 billion

Indian Ocean beach at Durban

Image: Brand South Africa

Subtropical Durban is South Africa's third-biggest city (after Johannesburg and Cape Town), second-biggest manufacturing hub and biggest port, as well as a major tourist destination. Durban's Gateway Theatre of Shopping is Africa's biggest mall. It has 12,000 parking slots, 390 stores, 90 restaurants, more than a dozen movie theatres (including an IMAX theatre), a skate park designed by Tony Hawk, and the highest fountain in Africa.

6. Nairobi (Kenya): $54 billion

Nairobi skyline

Image: © Sam Stearman

Kenya's capital and largest city (metro area: 7 million) Nairobi is also known as the Green City in the Sun. Founded in 1899 by the British as a rail depot, the city today is home to thousands of Kenyan businesses, as well as the Nairobi Securities Exchange, Africa's 4th-largest stock exchange; and regional hub for hundreds of multinationals.

7. Luanda (Angola): $49 billion

View of Luanda's harbour, with the Restinga peninsula in the background

Image: OneVillage Initiative, CC BY-SA 2.0

Luanda is the biggest city, major port and capital of Angola – and its metro area is home to one in three Angolans. While the majority of Luandans live in poverty, the booming oil and gas industry has created huge wealth for a minority (as well as a boom in banking and building). Luanda is one of the world's most expensive cities for ex-pats, in part because of high import tariffs imposed to help pay for diversifying the economy.

8. Pretoria (South Africa): $48 billion

Pretoria's central business district, seen from Muckleneuk Hill

Image: Petrus Potgieter/public domain

The administrative capital of South Africa and the hub of the wider Tshwane metro area, Pretoria is also a centre for academia and R&D, as well as commerce and industry, including metalworks to car factories.

9. Casablanca (Morocco): $42 billion

Dawn over Casablanca

Image: Achalhikarim, CC BY-SA 4.0

Officially ad-Dar al-Bayda in Arabic but informally known as Kaza, Casablanca is the largest city in the entire Maghreb region (metro area: 7 million), and its economic hub. It is important both as port city and financial centre. Major Moroccan and multinational companies are headquartered here rather than in the political capital Rabat.

10. Accra (Ghana): $38 billion

Independence Arch in Accra

Image: George Appiah, CC BY 2.0

A merger of coastal settlements around British, Dutch and Danish coastal forts, Accra in 1957 became the capital of sub-Saharan Africa's first independent nation. Today, it is a centre for manufacturing, marketing, finance, insurance, and transportation.

Over the next decade, the AfrAsia Bank's report expects growth to remain strong in South Africa, Angola, Morocco, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Tanzania and Nigeria – not coincidentally countries hosting many of the hubs shown on this map.

But the strongest growth projections apply to some of the smaller countries in Africa: Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana and Mauritius.


Map found here at Visual Capitalist.

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A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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