The world’s fastest-growing cities are in your backyard!

Posted on January 24, 2012


China has nine entries in the top 20, with Shanghai ranked #1. Riyadh and Jeddah follow.

English: Kingdom Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia....

Riyadh in Saudi Arabia is considered by the Brookings Institution as the second fastest-growing city in the world. (Image via Wikipedia)

How is your city treating you? Do incomes in your urban region continue to grow? Has your metropolis recovered from the global recession and started booming again? The answer to all these questions would be a resounding yes if you live in one of the emerging economies of the world. According to the latest research from The Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization based in Washington, DC, 19 of the top 20 fastest growing cities of the world are in the emerging markets. The only exception is Houston in the United States, which comes in at #19.

Surprised? Not really, right? Close on the heels of the Brookings Global MetroMonitor comes research from HSBC, which forecasts that 11 of the top 20 economies in the world in year 2050 will be what we today call emerging economies. Perhaps by 2050 we will have a whole new nomenclature for them, because they will have emerged by then, like butterflies from pupae, with China leading the pack.

Back to the fastest-growing cities. Again, China has nine entries in the top 20, with Shanghai ranked #1. Riyadh and Jeddah follow, riding the boom created by high oil prices and the economic stimulus announced by the Saudi Government as a direct response to the Arab Spring. Abu Dhabi is the fourth richest city in the world with income per capita of USD 63,859. Only Hartford in the US, Oslo in Norway and San Jose, also in the US fare better than the UAE capital. However, Abu Dhabi ranks 128 among the 200 metros, with income growth of 0.5% and employment growth of 1%. Quite a fall for a city that was once the 14th fastest-growing in the world. Dubai fares better, coming in at #114, with income declining 2.7% but employment rising 3%. The big surprise is Kuwait City, which is head and shoulders above the UAE cities, at #44.

Cairo and Alexandria – Egypt’s two representative cities – fared poorly in this year’s survey. Cairo was ranked #188 overall, from #12 in past surveys. It also emerged last among the 200 metros in terms of income per capita with USD 1,989, worse even then Alexandria at USD 2,248. Egypt’s troubles over the past year are well-documented but clearly, once we look past its short-term woes, the potential is there.

The question is: Where will you (and your investments) be living in 2050?

— Yazad Darasha

For more intelligence on future growth prospects (

Related articles

Posted in: Economy