The rapid population growth in second-tier global cities

The biggest cities in the world aren’t the only ones that are growing:

Megacities like Tokyo and Sao Paolo grab headlines, but the fastest population growth is happening in a group of global second-tier cities, which are easier for rural populations to reach and are safer and less intimidating than the megacities, many of which are surrounded by vast slums, Sassen said.

Three of the world’s fastest-growing cities with populations over 5 million are in Africa. Four are in China, two are in India and one in the Middle East. (One megacity, Beijing, is growing at a rate of 4.6 percent a year).

They are places like Suzhou, China, Surat, India and Kinshasha, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Or, take Luanda. If Americans have heard of it, it’s probably from images of a nearly 30-year-long civil war that overtook the southwest African country after independence from Portugal. After 10 years of peace, Angola’s oil, gas, diamonds and other mineral resources are fueling a building boom…

The fastest-growing cities are adding hundreds of thousands to their populations each year. Luanda, for instance, is expected to grow again next year by 4 percent, according to a United Nations report. That’s more than 400,000 people, or about the same number who live in Miami.

Not everyone can live and work in the biggest global cities. Mid-sized cities can contain a large number of people while offering some of the features of urban life without the largest-scale populations and problems. Take the United States as an example: the top three cities may get a lot of attention but most Americans do not live in these regions. (Roughly 42 million live in the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago regions combined.)

It would be interesting to know how these second-tier cities are then connected to the biggest cities around the world. Do they also have concentrations of the finance industry? Do they act more as regional centers that provide needed services and goods for their own geographic area? This article suggests such cities are unique business opportunities; while everyone else flocks to the most well-known places, there are emerging markets in these second-tier cities.

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