More than half (54%) of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, according to the United Nations, with the number expected to hit 66% by 2050.
The UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs has released the 2014 revision of the World Urbanisation Prospects, finding that by 2050, 2.5 billion more people will move into urban areas.
The UN’s projects that 37% of the growth will take place in India – which currently has the largest rural population – China and Nigeria, in that order.
New Delhi, currently the world’s second most populous city with 25 million inhabitants, is expected to retain that spot through at least 2030, when its population is projected to reach 36 million, the UN said.
The world’s largest city is Tokyo with 38 million inhabitants, and while its population is expected to decline to 37 million by 2030, it will remain at the top.
The most urbanised regions in the world include North America (82% urbanisation) and Latin America (80%) – while the UK rounds up the top three regions at 73%
The least urbanised regions in the world are found in Africa and Asia, though the UN notes that the urbanisation of these regions is on the rise.
“These countries will face numerous challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations,” the report said.
These challenges include making provision for housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy and employment, as well as for basic services such as education and health care.
According to the UN’s data, South Africa is more urbanised than rural, with 64.3% of the country’s population (34.17 million people) living in urban areas, compared to 35.7% (18.9 million) dwelling in rural areas by mid-year 2014.
South Africa’s urbanisation patterns are expected to hit 77.4% (49.1 million of a projected 63.4 million people) in 2050, from around 43% (5.8 million of 13.7 million people) in 1950.
Conversely, the share of rural dwellers is expected to decrease to 22% (14.3 million) in 2050 from 59% (7.9 million) in 1950.
South Africa’s urbanisation trends are higher than that of the Southern African regional average, and far higher than that of the African continent’s average.
South African urbanisation data
(Population in thousands)