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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.

Expand chart

Data: United Nations World Urbanization Prospects; Map: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

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...

  • In 1950, 750 million people worldwide lived in cities — most of them in Europe or North America. The majority of the global population lived in rural areas until 2008.
  • Now, 55% of the world’s population (4.3 billion people) lives in urban areas. That will jump to 68% (6.6 billion people) by 2050.
  • Asia added 1 billion urban residents between 1950 and 2000, and another 900 million since. The continent is home to more than half of the world’s urban population and 17 of the 31 global megacities of 10 million or more people.
  • Africa’s urbanization boom is just beginning. A decade ago, it had about half as many urban residents as Europe. A decade from now, it will have more. Two decades after that, in 2048, it will have twice as many.

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.

  • There are already 8 times more Nigerians living in cities than there were in 1975. All of the country’s five largest cities are expected to roughly match Lagos’ breathtaking growth, meaning they’ll have to accommodate at least 70% more people by 2030.

Zoom out: Urbanization is also yielding cities of unprecedented size.

  • As of 1975, there were three metro areas with at least 10 million people — Tokyo, New York and Mexico City. A list of the 10 largest cities at that time would have included Paris (now 25th), Moscow (22nd) and Los Angeles (21st).
  • Now there are 31 such megacities, and the UN projects 10 more will join the list by 2030. All but one (Bogotá) are in Africa or Asia.
  • We may soon need a new definition of megacity. There will be 14 cities with at least 20 million people — including Lagos and Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — by 2030.

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.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.