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Urbanomics: A Breakdown of CitySumers Around The Globe

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Visual representation of info about consumer activity within cities

Over 50% of the Worlds Population Lives In Cities

According to the United Nations Population Fund, nearly 50.5% of the world’s population lives in or around large urban centers compared to a mere 5% just a century ago. These urban hubs are not only attracting people looking for work, more than ever, the world’s urban centers are drawing a crowd of sophisticated city dwellers with some measure of disposable income. These city consumers, or “citysumers”, are spending their disposable income on urban-centered goods, services and experiences.

Top Three Reasons For This Trend

What’s behind this trend? It’s simple really.

These three factors are contributing to mass urbanization:

  1. The sheer increase of the number of city dwellers around the world
  2. The increasing wealth and power of cities and the populations that live in them
  3. The spread of urban culture and values

Do you need the numbers to believe this? Close to 180,000 people flock from rural areas to make their homes in cities each day, adding roughly 60 million new urban dwellers annually. If these trends continue, the World Economic Forum estimates that the global urban population is expected to reach 6.3 billion in 2050, or 70% of the world’s population at that time. By 2030, China will have 221 cities with more than 1 million people, and India will have 68.

Where in the World is Population Growth Exploding?

The majority of the urbanization going on in the world isn’t occurring in North America or Europe.

The biggest growth is in Asia and Africa, both of which lay claim to the largest population growth centers in 2010:

  • Beihai, China, with a growth of over 10%
  • Ghaziabad, India, with growth of 5.2%
  • Sana’a, Yemen, nearing growth of 5%
  • Surat, India, which grew 4.99%
  • Kabul, Afghanistan, with growth of 4.74%
  • Bamako, Mali, growing at 4.45%
  • Lagos, Nigeria, and Faridabad, India, both with growth of 4.44%
  • Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which saw growth of 4.39%
  • Chittagong, Bangladesh, which grew 4.29%

But vast growth doesn’t equal wealth and power, at least, not yet. The world’s richest cities are still centered in Europe and North America. Copenhagen, Zurich, and Geneva are the top three richest cities in the world, zooming to the top three from the top ten in 2009. The rest of the world’s richest cities are New York, Oslo, Los Angeles, Munich, Luxembourg, Frankfurt, and Dublin, respectively. The two American cities entered the top ten this year after being 11th (NYC) and 14th (LA) place in 2009.

Population Trends 2020

By 2020, the largest urban areas will still be located outside of North America and centered in Asia, with a few locations also in South America. Tokyo, Japan is expected to lead this growth, with a population projected at 37.28 million. New York is the only city in North America to make the projected list, with a projected population of 20.43 million.

In addition to these, the next top ten largest urban centers in 2020 are expected to be:

  • Mumbai, India (25.97 million)
  • Delhi, India (25.83 million)
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh (22.04 million)
  • Mexico City, Mexico (21.81 million)
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil (21.57 million)
  • Lagos, Nigeria (21.51 million)
  • Jakarta, Indonesia (20.77 million)
  • Karachi, Pakistan (18.94 million)

Will Wealth Grow Like the Population

With this shift in the world’s urban centers, the question is whether or not there will be a shift in the world’s concentration of riches? In other words, will Tokyo, Mumbai, and Delhi replace Copenhagen, Zurich, and Geneva in terms of wealth? In order for these up and coming urban centers to become rich and powerful, they need to hold the edge in terms of industry as well as sheer population numbers. It is obvious when looking at the list of the top three wealthiest cities that they are closely connected with the world’s banking industry. – so if there is a shift and other cities in Asia supplant Europe in terms of banking power, there may well be a shift in terms of wealth as well.

In simple terms, it’s not enough for a city to be big – it has to have a hold on industry and power as well. For example, Mexico City is one of the world’s largest cities, yet does not rank in the top twenty in terms of wealth. It will be interesting indeed to see where the world’s wealth shifts over the next ten years.