For the first time in history over half the world’s population live in cities — more than 54% of us did in 2014.

Mass urbanization is proving to be “the single most important transformation” the world is seeing in the 21st century, according to Jamal Saghir, director of sustainable development at the World Bank, and it shows no signs of letting up. By 2050, the U.N. predicts 66% of us will call a city our home.

It is generally accepted that cities are the engines of economic growth, and nowhere are these engines firing harder, or populations growing faster, than in the developing world.

With burgeoning higher education systems and enviably young workforces, African cities in particular are booming. Commended for their diversity, adaptability and enterprise, investors are taking note.

Global auditing firm PwC has now quantified and ranked Africa’s urban hubs in a new report listing the continent’s top “Cities of Opportunity.”

1. Cairo, Egypt. A new report by PwC ranked 20 African "Cities of Opportunity," looking at a number of factors, including infrastructure, human capital, economics and society and demographics. The Egyptian capital of Cairo topped the list thanks to its large scale, middle class and international clout, although analysts observed current political turmoil as a potential sticking point for investors.

1. Cairo, Egypt. A new report by PwC ranked 20 African “Cities of Opportunity,” looking at a number of factors, including infrastructure, human capital, economics and society and demographics. The Egyptian capital of Cairo topped the list thanks to its large scale, middle class and international clout, although analysts observed current political turmoil as a potential sticking point for investors.

 

2. Tunis, Tunisia. North African cities dominated the top five, with Tunis coming second. Analysts cited the city's top ranking health system and number of graduate enrollments, with Tunis trumping the rest of African urban centers in terms of human capital.

2. Tunis, Tunisia. North African cities dominated the top five, with Tunis coming second. Analysts cited the city’s top ranking health system and number of graduate enrollments, with Tunis trumping the rest of African urban centers in terms of human capital.

 

3. Johannesburg, South Africa. An anomaly among the top five, Johannesburg is both south of the Sahara and, having been founded in only 1886, is a relative newcomer. The South African city performed strongly in all main categories with the exception of society and demographics, where high crime, stagnating middle-class and overall population growth hindered the city.

3. Johannesburg, South Africa. An anomaly among the top five, Johannesburg is both south of the Sahara and, having been founded in only 1886, is a relative newcomer. The South African city performed strongly in all main categories with the exception of society and demographics, where high crime, stagnating middle-class and overall population growth hindered the city.

 

4. Casablanca, Morocco. Casablanca triumphed in the hotly-contested economics index, coming first in GDP diversity and as a key location for Top 500 company headquarters -- top transport and energy infrastructure rankings no doubt helped in this sense. However, and like Tunis, the city was let down by poor diversity and population growth, typical of the North African cities surveyed.

4. Casablanca, Morocco. Casablanca triumphed in the hotly-contested economics index, coming first in GDP diversity and as a key location for Top 500 company headquarters — top transport and energy infrastructure rankings no doubt helped in this sense. However, and like Tunis, the city was let down by poor diversity and population growth, typical of the North African cities surveyed.

 

5. Algiers, Algeria. Algiers was a high achiever in terms of human capital, with the second highest rate of graduates and an excellent health system. Its mid-table position in economics hindered its progress up the table, and while its middle-class numbers stagnate, crime levels were one of the lowest in Africa.

5. Algiers, Algeria. Algiers was a high achiever in terms of human capital, with the second highest rate of graduates and an excellent health system. Its mid-table position in economics hindered its progress up the table, and while its middle-class numbers stagnate, crime levels were one of the lowest in Africa.

With the caveat that only one city per country could be assessed, PwC set out ranking locations in terms of infrastructure, human capital, economics and society and demographics.

LEARN MORE  Why Education Is Key To Preserving The Planet

North African cities dominated the top five, with Cairo claiming pole position, followed by Tunis, Johannesburg, Casablanca and Algiers. Analysts cited the age of North African cities as a determining factor, with strong infrastructure across the board, incubating an environment for human capital to thrive.

However, sub-Saharan cities registered among the highest in terms of society and demographics, excelling in diversity and population growth, both useful when looking towards future investment.

Indeed, the report also offered an alternative ranking, gauging the strongest trajectories in terms of investment. GDP growth, ease of doing business, attracting FDI, middle class and overall population growth all took precedent.

6. Accra, Ghana. Accra was commended for its ease of doing business and GDP diversity. Poor rankings in healthcare and infrastructure let the city down, but with a stable political environment and a high ranking in terms of attracting foreign direct investment, analysts expect Accra to climb the rankings in the future.

6. Accra, Ghana. Accra was commended for its ease of doing business and GDP diversity. Poor rankings in healthcare and infrastructure let the city down, but with a stable political environment and a high ranking in terms of attracting foreign direct investment, analysts expect Accra to climb the rankings in the future.

 

7. Kenya, Nairobi. Nairobi came second only to Cairo when it came to international clout. The Kenyan capital was the top attraction for foreign direct investment and has a strong financial services industry, but shortcomings in infrastructure, healthcare and further education demonstrated room for improvement.

7. Kenya, Nairobi. Nairobi came second only to Cairo when it came to international clout. The Kenyan capital was the top attraction for foreign direct investment and has a strong financial services industry, but shortcomings in infrastructure, healthcare and further education demonstrated room for improvement.

 

8. Lagos, Nigeria. High housing and business occupancy costs hindered Lagos, bringing down its infrastructure score. This is perhaps a result of its strong financial industry, with the Nigerian mega-city attracting substantial amounts of foreign investment and providing the headquarters for many Top 500 companies.

8. Lagos, Nigeria. High housing and business occupancy costs hindered Lagos, bringing down its infrastructure score. This is perhaps a result of its strong financial industry, with the Nigerian mega-city attracting substantial amounts of foreign investment and providing the headquarters for many Top 500 companies.

 

9. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Addis Ababa is experiencing a middle class explosion and boasts high diversity, while it topped the rankings in city scale. However, it had the worse GDP per capita and literacy rate of the cities assessed, while foreign investment is still in its infancy. But, ranking third overall in terms of infrastructure, analysts expect the investing situation -- and its ranking -- to improve.

9. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Addis Ababa is experiencing a middle class explosion and boasts high diversity, while it topped the rankings in city scale. However, it had the worse GDP per capita and literacy rate of the cities assessed, while foreign investment is still in its infancy. But, ranking third overall in terms of infrastructure, analysts expect the investing situation — and its ranking — to improve.

 

10. Kampala, Uganda. Kampala founds its way into the top 10 off the back of one category: society and demographics. It had the highest ranked population growth, strong diversity and international clout -- fertile ground for a prosperous future workforce. GDP is growing at a steady rate and literacy rates are near the top. Limited infrastructure could be a barrier to future success.

10. Kampala, Uganda. Kampala founds its way into the top 10 off the back of one category: society and demographics. It had the highest ranked population growth, strong diversity and international clout — fertile ground for a prosperous future workforce. GDP is growing at a steady rate and literacy rates are near the top. Limited infrastructure could be a barrier to future success.

Under these criteria, Cairo could only achieve a mid-table ranking and was the only city in the top 10 north of the Sahara. Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, Nairobi, Lagos and Accra made up the top five, suggesting a new generation of African powerhouse economies is waiting in the wings.

LEARN MORE  Poo Power: Turning Human Waste Into Clean Energy in Kenya's Slums

That being said, one city’s development does not preclude another’s. What is certain is that the battle for economic dominance is on.

 

This feature originally appeared in CNN.

 

bartday-ppl-appstore-468x60

bartday-ndr-playstore-468x60

Previous post

Dan Ariely : How Equal Do We Want The World To Be? You'd Be Surprised

Next post

How Far A Paycheck Goes In 191 U.S. Cities