The United Nations Population Division recently updated one of their signature products: the World Urbanization Prospects. By 2050, the world’s urban population is projected to grow by 2.5 billion people, with almost 90 percent of that growth expected to be in Asia and Africa.

While the release of the prospects last month garnered media coverage, much of it focused on the growth of megacities and missed what I found to be one of the most compelling findings: 37 percent of the projected urban increase is anticipated to occur in just three countries.

That’s not necessarily surprising, considering the graphics accompanying the new report had a lot going on. As you can see below, comparing the 2014 and 2030 maps gives you a sense of overall growth, but could you guess the three countries?

United Nations   Population Division2014

Image courtesy of the United Nations Population Division.

United Nations   Population Division2030

Image courtesy of the United Nations Population Division.


If you guessed China, India, and Nigeria, you’re right (see below). And the fact that these three countries will account for a huge chunk of urban growth has implications beyond just the numbers of city dwellers.


Traditionally, urbanization has been associated with prosperity and positive outcomes for its inhabitants, such as improved access to social services, higher levels of education and literacy, and better health. However, as our recent infographic reveals, urban areas are often home to extreme inequality and substandard living conditions for millions the world’s urban poor residents. How India, China and Nigeria cope with the needs of their growing urban populations—from infrastructure, to transportation, to reproductive health care—will be a major factor in how these countries develop over the next 35 years.

Visual Insight is a monthly blog series focusing on mapping and data visualizations.