The World’s Next Megacities

Currently, around 54% of the world’s population lives in cities, and it’s estimated that this will increase to 70% by 2050. Urbanisation has seen more people moving to cities, with the hope of getting better job prospects, better security and better quality of life.

This urbanisation has resulted in many cities around the world becoming megacities, with huge populations and vast economic output.

What is a megacity?

A megacity is usually defined as a large city that has a population of more than 10 million people. Some organisations define a megacity as having around five or eight million people but with a population density of 2,000 people per square kilometre.

Due to this difference in definition, the number of megacities in the world also varies. The UN states there are 33 megacities, while other sources state there are between 37 and 44.

Around 50% of megacities are located in China and India. Brazil, Japan, Pakistan and the United States all also have more than one megacity. The largest megacity in the world is sometimes identified as the Greater Tokyo Area in Japan, while others identify the largest as the Pearl River Delta in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area region.

Tokyo is estimated to have between 40,700,00 to 37,468,000 inhabitants, whereas Guangzhou, representing the Pearl River Delta, is estimated to have around 65,100,000 inhabitants. Other sources view Guangzhou as a separate city to the larger Pearl River Delta, estimating it to have between 12,638,000 and 26,940,000 inhabitants.

Which cities will become megacities?

New research shows that due to population growth and this move away from rural areas, there are 14 cities across the globe that are forecast to become megacities by 2050. We investigate each city below, in order of highest expected growth to lowest.

Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam is the largest city and the financial hub of Tanzania in East Africa. As well as an important economic centre for the country, it is also a focal point for the arts, fashion and media.

Dar es Salaam currently has a population of 7.5 million. It’s forecast to grow to 16.5 million by 2050. This puts Dar as the city set to have the highest growth over the next few decades, at 118%.


Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya, in East Africa, and is the largest city in the country. It is home to the Kenyan Parliament as well as being a major business hub for Kenyan and international organisations. Several international companies have their regional headquarters in Nairobi, including Coca-Cola, Google, and IBM Services.

Nairobi’s current population stands at 5.2 million. It’s forecast to grow by 101% by 2025, up to 10.4 million.


Khartoum is the capital city of Sudan in Northeast Africa. The city is a centre for economy and trade in North Africa and is a major transport hub. Industries in the city include printing, glass manufacturing, and textiles.

Khartoum currently has a population of 6.2 million and this is set to rise to 11.2 million by 2050. This will be a growth of 80%.


Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and the second-largest city in the Arab world (Cairo, with a population of 20 million, is number one). Baghdad is a key cultural, commercial and intellectual centre for Islam. It is home to many major academic institutions, including the House of Wisdom and multiethnic and multi-religious organisations. It has become known worldwide as a “centre of learning”.

Baghdad currently has a population of 7.6 million. This is expected to grow by 71%, increasing to 13 million by 2050.


Luanda is the capital of Angola in Southern Africa and is the largest city in the country. It is the administrative centre of Angola and its main seaport. Major industries in the city include processing agricultural products, producing beverages, textiles, cement, and new car assembly. There is also an oil refinery in the city.

Luanda currently has a population of 9 million, already close to the megacity requirement of 10 million. It’s set to grow by 62% by 2050, increasing the population to 14.6 million.


India already has six megacities – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad. Ahmedabad is a city in the state of Gujarat, in India and looks to be the one of next Indian megacities.

It is the administrative centre for the district and the seat of the Gujarat High Court. It is a major economic and industrial hub of India – it is the second-largest producer of cotton in the country and is also a centre for finance, pharmaceuticals, and information technology.

Ahmedabad has a population of 8.5 million, which is forecast to grow by 54% to 13 million by 2050.


Pune is a city in the state of Maharashtra in India. It is a major industrial and economic hub in the country and is home to many distinguished educational institutions. In addition to this, Pune is India’s centre for It and also has a focus on automobile and manufacturing.

Pune currently has a population of 7 million. By 2050, this is set to grow by 54%, taking the population to 10.8 million, just over the minimum requirement to become a megacity.


Surat is another city in the state of Gujarat in western India. It is known as the “diamond city of India” and is famous for its diamond cutting and polishing industry. It also has a large focus on textiles, including silk, and supplies large quantities of apparel and accessories.

Surat’s population currently stands at 7.9 million. By 2050 it is forecast to grow by 54% to 12 million.

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is a municipality located in southeast Vietnam. It is a major hub for finance, media, technology, education, and transport. Other industries in the city include mining, seafood processing, and agriculture.

Ho Chi Minh City has a population of 9.1 million, so is already very close to megacity status. The population is forecast to grow by 42% by 2050, increasing to 13 million.


The USA already has two megacities – LA and New York – and Chicago looks to be next. Located in the state of Illinois in the Midwest, Chicago is an international hub for finance, culture, education, and technology. It has a diverse economy, with no single industry employing more than 14% of the workforce.

Chicago currently has 8.9 million inhabitants. Its population is forecast to grow by 21% by 2050, to 10.8 million.


London is the capital and largest city in England. It commonly places in the top two for various Global City rankings and is an international financial centre. It is also a hub for media and technology, as well as fashion, education, and tourism.

London currently has a population of 9.6 million. By 2050, this is forecast to grow by 14% to 10.8 million, just taking it to megacity status.


Tehran is the capital city of Iran and the largest city in the country. It is the second-largest metropolitan area in the Middle East, after Cairo (which is already a megacity with over 20,000,000 inhabitants). Tehran is the economic centre of Iran and its key industries include manufacturing automobiles, electronics, weaponry, and textiles.

Tehran currently has a population of 9.4 million. By 2050, this is forecast to grow by 13% to 10.6 million, taking the city to megacity status.


China already has between 8 and 13 megacities, depending on the definition, with Shanghai and Beijing being the undisputed largest. Chengdu looks to be one of the next Chinese cities to become a megacity.

Chengdu is the hub of southwest China and is located in the Sichuan province. It is a national centre for finance, commerce, culture and transport, focusing on industries such as machinery, automobile, medicine, and IT.

Chengdu currently has a population of 9.5 million. By 2050 it is forecast to have a small growth of 11%, which will take the population to 10.6 million.


Nanjing is the capital of the Jiangsu province in eastern China. The city has a long history of importance in China, having been the capital for various dynasties, kingdoms, and republican governments. Now, it is a major financial hub and a centre for culture, education, and research.

Nanjing currently has a population of 9.5 million. By 2050, this is forecast to grow by 11% to 10.4 million, making it a megacity.

If you’re moving abroad to benefit from the growing economies in these new megacities, make sure you’re covered with working abroad insurance. Expatriate Group provides comprehensive and flexible policies designed for expats working overseas. Get a quote online today.

Related News