Welcome to Axios World, where two evenings a week we break down what you need to know about the big stories from around the globe.
In this mid-August edition we zoom out from the headlines and examine some big trends that will shape the decades to come. Let me know what you think, and please tell your friends and colleagues to sign up here.
As of 2000, the population of Lagos, Nigeria, was roughly 7.2 million, somewhere between those of greater Philadelphia and Chicago. By 2030 it will be 24 million, nearly as large as metropolitan New York and London — combined.
Why it matters: We’re in the midst of a global megacity boom, and nowhere are cities growing faster than in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of citydwellers will triple by 2050 to 1.3 billion. Rapid urbanization and everything that comes with it — economic opportunity, social turmoil, environmental upheaval — is reaching nearly every corner of the globe.
By the numbers...
Zoom in: Nigeria’s population is growing, and urbanizing, with staggering speed. It’s set to surpass the U.S. to become the third most populous on earth by 2050.
Zoom out: Urbanization is also yielding cities of unprecedented size.
Why it matters: Urbanization can be a massive engine for economic growth — supplying labor, cutting transport costs and encouraging competition and collaboration. It can also put a massive strain on resources like water and housing.
Note: All population estimates and projections via the UN.
If China achieves the targets outlined in its Energy Development Strategy Action Plan, it will become the world's nuclear energy leader and fundamentally change the global trajectory of the nuclear power industry, Axios' Zach Basu writes.
The big picture: It's not a foregone conclusion that China will follow through on its plans, especially with the public resistance stemming from the 2011 Fukushima meltdown in Japan. But if the country succeeds in surmounting the political risks and commercializing advanced nuclear systems, there will be a push worldwide to generalize these achievements beyond China's borders.
Xi Jinping is ramping up China's efforts to control speech on the internet at home and export that more restrictive model abroad, Adam Segal details in Foreign Affairs:
"Given China’s size and technological sophistication, Beijing has a good chance of succeeding — thereby remaking cyberspace in its own image. If this happens, the internet will be less global and less open."
China is trying to pioneer what it calls “cyber-sovereignty,” Segal writes, or "a world of national Internets, with government control justified by the sovereign rights of states." That's in direct conflict with the U.S.-led vision of the internet as open, interoperable, reliable, and secure.
Axios' Shannon Vavra has three big things to watch:
Go deeper: Read the full piece.
In a previous edition, I looked at the story of how an ex-CIA agent allegedly betrayed the agency, enabling the Chinese government to carry out a systematic and deadly operation to break a crucial spy network.
The Syrian flag flies in a neighborhood near Damascus previously held by ISIS. Photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images
There are believed to be around 30,000 ISIS fighters across Iraq and Syria, according to two new reports from the Pentagon and the UN, far higher than previous estimates, Axios' Haley Britzky writes.
The U.S. Lead Inspector General report cites a Pentagon estimate of "15,500 to 17,100 ISIS fighters" in Iraq, and around 14,000 in Syria.
The UN Security Council report estimates ISIS membership in Iraq and Syria "to be between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals, roughly distributed between the two countries."
Between the lines: Michael Dempsey, former acting director of national intelligence now at CFR, writes for Axios that ISIS is focused "on keeping a toehold in Iraq and Syria and embedding its supporters into local populations."
Greece is set to graduate its third and final bailout package this month, officially capping the largest sovereign debt restructuring in global history, Axios' Zach Basu writes.
The bigger picture: A decade after the global financial crisis, Europe has largely recovered from the economic damage that forced five countries to seek bailouts. But with an economy that continues to sputter after eight years of financial assistance, Greece has a long way to go.
Meanwhile... The latest round of Brexit negotiations kicked off today in Brussels, with just two months to go before October's EU Summit — widely seen as one of the last feasible dates to secure a withdrawal treaty.
A rally for the populist Five Star movement at Rome's Colosseum. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images.
All roads that led to Rome lead to prosperity too. It’s generally accepted that building better infrastructure is a way to boost economic growth and prosperity. But a new study suggests those benefits can last for hundreds, even thousands of years.
The P/Russian divide: The imperial border that once divided today’s Poland between the Russian empire and the Prussian empire correlates almost exactly with the electoral map in elections since the return of democracy in 1989.
Faithful take part in the 2018 annual Holy Convocation of 'La Luz del Mundo' (The Light of the World) church in Guadalajara, Mexico. Photo: Ulises Ruiz/AFP).
"There are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow."— Vatican statement on evidence the church systematically covered up hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by priests in Pennsylvania
Thanks for reading — see you Monday evening!