Which Is The Biggest City In Africa And Where Is It Located?

The African continent has been witnessing rapid growth and development over the years. Most of its cities have been rated among the fastest-growing cities in the world. This has been attributed to the statistical level of constant, and sustained, socio-economic, infrastructural, human resource, and technological developments, obtained in some of these cities.

It could be rightly argued that in as much as African countries are categorized under the third world classification, the emerging rapid development witnessed in some of its cities have earned it a place in the comity of nations. These cities are now competing with those in advanced western nations in terms of developmental trends.

If you are wondering which African country has the largest city on the entire continent, you are just a few scrolls away from finding out. Using different parameters, this article has put together all you need to know about the biggest cities in Africa based on land mass, population, and development.

The Biggest City In Africa By Land Size

Africa is both the second-largest continent and the second most populous continent in the world after Asia. Covering an area of 30.37 million km², most of the cities on the continent are quite massive. With Cairo, Egypt ranking first, below is a list of the biggest cities on the continent by land size.

Cairo

  • Country: Egypt
  • Land Mass (Area km): 17,267.6 km²
  • Population: 20.4million
  • Coastline: 170 km (100 mi) south of Egypt’s Mediterranean Sea coast
  • Economy: Industrial, Commercial

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In terms of landmass, the biggest city in Africa is Cairo, the capital city of Egypt. It covers an area of 17,267.6 km2 and has a population of 20.4 million inhabitants. Cairo is notably famous for its signature of great ancient pyramids, and historical relics.

What’s more, the neighboring areas surrounding Cairo are said to have been inhabited way back into pre-historic times, and this is also where the economic center still holds in the country. The ancient city of Cairo is also notable for housing some of the world’s largest exhibitions of archaeological findings from ancient Egypt. All of these have made Cairo one of the choicest tourism destinations on the African continent, and it has attracted lots of foreign investors who have played key roles in developing Cairo into the megacity that it is today.

The city is developed in terms of infrastructure and prides itself as not only one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa but also one of the less expensive cities to live in the world (2019 ranking). According to a 2021 survey by a site called NUMBEO, Cairo is 13.46% less expensive to live in than Lagos. Rent in Cairo is, on average, 85.94% lower than in Lagos. Little wonder there is so much migration and the influx of people into the city seeking better lives and greener pastures.

The in flock of people in the city has made it overpopulated. With over 20 million inhabitants with an annual growth rate of 2% on average. However, despite being a megacity, there are reportedly close to 300 slum areas in the city where so many live below the poverty line as the city is also plagued with a high level of unemployment. The situation of poverty is not any better in most popular cities in Africa.

10 Other Biggest Cities In Africa By Land Size

10. Casablanca

  • Country: Morocco
  • Land Mass (Area km): 384 km²

Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco. It has a population of 3.793 million people and an area of 384 km². It is considered to be the economic centre of the country despite not being the capital city.

 9. Addis Ababa

  • Country: Ethiopia
  • Land Mass (Area km): 527 km²

Addis Ababa is Ethiopia’s capital and one of the oldest cities in Africa. It has a population of more than 5 million people, living in an area of 527 km2. Addis Ababa is highly dominated by Christians

8. Nairobi

  • Country: Kenya
  • Land Mass (Area km): 696 km²

Nairobi is Kenya’s capital with a population of 4.397 million, covering an area of 696 km2. Despite being one of the cities in Africa considered very dangerous mostly at night, Nairobi remains a tourist city that witnesses an influx of foreigners coming to enjoy safaris each year.

7. Lagos

  • Country: Nigeria
  • Land Mass (Area km): 1,171.28 km2

Lagos is Africa’s most populous city and the economic center of Nigeria. It is also among the biggest cities in Africa by landmass, covering an area of 1,171.28 km2.

6. Dar es Salaam

  • Country: Tanzania
  • Land Mass (Area km): 1,590 km²

The Tanzanian former capital city Dar es Salaam cannot be left out in this ranking. Aside from being Tanzania’s largest and commercial city, Dar es Salaam is notable for its islands, beaches, music and seafood. It has a population of 4.4 million people covering a landmass of 1,590 km²

5. Johannesburg

  • Country: South Africa
  • Land Mass (Area km): 1,645 km²

Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa with a population of 5.9 million residents, covering an expanse of 1,645 km² landmasses. The city has been known to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world, despite its vast tourist attractions.

4. Abidjan

  • Country: Ivory Coast
  • Land Mass (Area km): 2,119 km²

The largest city in Ivory Coast is Abidjan, and it is also among the biggest cities in Africa with an area of 2,119 km2. It serves as the economical centre of the country.

3. Accra

  • Country: Ghana
  • Land Mass (Area km): 225.7 km²

Accra is the capital and biggest city of Ghana. It has a population of around 4.1 million and is the country’s commercial center.

2. Alexandria

  • Country: Egypt
  • Land Mass (Area km): 2,679 km²

Alexandria is yet another big city in Egypt. It covers a landmass of 2,679 km2. This city is famous for housing one of the most important libraries in the world with a population of 5.2 million people.

1. Kinshasa

  • Country: Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Land Mass (Area km): 9,965 km2

Covering a massive landmass of 9,965 km2, Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, ranks as the second-largest city in Africa by landmass and is occupied by an equally high population of inhabitants of over 17 million people.

The Biggest City In Africa By Population

Africa is not just home to over 1.3 billion people but also to some of the largest cities in the world by population. Beginning with Lagos, below is a list of some of the most populated cities on the continent.

Lagos

  • Country: Nigeria
  • Land Mass (Area km): 1,171.28 km2
  • Population: 21 million
  • Coastline: Atlantic coastline of Nigeria (180 km long)
  • Economy: Import, Export, Trade, etc

Beautiful cities in NIgeria
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According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) research, Lagos, Nigeria tops the list as not just one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa but the most populated city on the continent. In fact, it is one of the most populous cities in the world with a growing population of over 21 million inhabitants covering an expanse of 1,171.28 km2 landmass area.

It is the commercial city of Nigeria, and its economy is highly vibrant to the extent of contributing a significant percentage of Nigeria’s total annual GDP, as well as to the entire fiscal growth of the country. Lagos often prides itself as one of the most commercially viable megacities in the whole of the African shores where most foreign investors troop in to establish their businesses. It is also the African centre stage where hospitality and real estate strives as well as other commercial activities of imports and exports.

Located on the Atlantic Ocean’s coastline, Lagos is rated the 7th fastest growing city in the world, while its population grows at an annual rate of 2 to 3%. Unlike other states in Nigeria that are largely dependent on oil revenues, Lagos has a diversified economy with vibrant manufacturing, wholesale, retail, hospitality, transport, and real estate sectors. Lagos is said to generate over $90 billion in goods and services per annum. Sadly, two-thirds of the population in Lagos are slum dwellers. Crime is also a major threat in the city, with high rates of kidnappings, extortion, carjacks, assaults, rapes, armed muggings, and burglaries.

Although Lagos may not be one of the cheapest places to live in, it’s also not the most expensive city in Nigeria or across Africa. According to NUMBEO, Lagos is 63.48% less expensive than New York, and rent in Lagos is on average and 46.06% lower than in New York. Due to its vast development and infrastructure, the city witnesses a continuous influx of people leaving the rural areas for greener pastures and this has resulted in overpopulation and the social amenities and infrastructure not going around.

It is estimated that 2 million people live in extreme poverty and joblessness, while over 300,000 inhabitants are said to be homeless. Also, there is a wide gap between those in the rich echelons and the poor masses which has made the standard of living to be very high. That notwithstanding, the future holds much respite for the largest cities in Africa as there are several projects that have been set up to improve the living conditions.

10 Other Biggest Cities In Africa By Population

10. Casablanca

  • Country: Morocco
  • Population: 3.7 million

Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco. It has a population of 3.793 million people in an area of 20,166 km2 and is considered to be the economic centre of the country despite not being the capital city.

9. Accra

  • Country: Ghana
  • Population: 4.1 million

Accra is the capital and biggest city of Ghana. It has a population of around 4.1 million. Accra is the country’s commercial centre

8. Nairobi

  • Country: Kenya
  • Population: 4.3 Million

Nairobi is Kenya’s capital city with a population of 4.397 million, covering an area of 696 km2. It is another city considered very dangerous mostly at night.

7. Abidjan

  • Country: Ivory Coast
  • Population: 5.3 million

Abidjan is the largest city in Ivory Coast as well as the county’s economical center. It has a population of 5.354 million inhabitants, covering an area of 2,119 km2

6. Alexandria

  • Country: Egypt
  • Population: 5.3 million

Founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great, Alexandria in Egypt is among the most populous cities in Africa with a population of 5.381 million. The city located by the Mediterranean sea has a port and beautiful beaches. There is a lot of industrial activity happening in and around it, and as so it generates a whopping US$46 billion or more to the Egyptian economy annually.

5. Johannesburg

  • Country: South Africa
  • Population: 5.9 million

Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa. With a population of 4.4 million residents, covering an expanse of 3,357 km2 landmass. There are about 5.9 million people living in the metropolitan area of Johannesburg.

4. Dar es Salaam

  • Country: Tanzania
  • Population: 7 million

Tanzania is notable for being the home of Kilimanjaro, the largest mountain in Africa. It has a population of 4.4 million people covering a landmass of 1,393 km.

3. Luanda

  • Country: Angola
  • Population: 8.631 million

The capital of Angola is one of the largest cities in Africa with a population of 6.5 million people and a landmass area of 2,417 km2.

2. Kinshasa

  • Country: DR Congo
  • Population: 17.07 million

Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo is regarded as the third-largest city in Africa. It has a population of over 17 million people, covering a landmass of 9,965 km2.

1. Cairo

  • Country: Egypt
  • Population: 20.4 million

Cairo is one of the most polluted cities in the world, and many of its residents live in poverty, while there is a high level of unemployment. These circumstances are similar to those that can be found in Lagos. There is a huge gap when it comes to class and wealth in both societies of the largest cities in Africa. For example, in Cairo, there are 289 slum areas with a big number of people living in extreme poverty and unemployment.

The Biggest City in Africa By Development

Cape Town

  • Country: South Africa
  • Land Mass (Area km): 400.3 km²
  • Population: 4.7 million
  • Coastline: Cape Coast
  • Economy: Industrial, Commercial

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The era of being an under-developed continent is a thing of the past in Africa today. Most countries and cities on the continent have experienced advanced economic, technological, and infrastructural development within the past decade. In this regard, it goes without saying that Cape Town is Africa’s most developed city, as well as the country’s second-largest city. The city has become highly developed that one would hardly believe that it is in Africa.

This city is endowed with friendly weather, beautiful beaches, water parks, and lots of tourist attractions. It is also famous for producing some of the world’s finest wines. Cape Town’s infrastructural development dates back to the colonial period when colonial masters began to put infrastructures in place in and around the city. The city has since advanced is today undoubtedly the most developed city on the continent.

According to a recent survey, the cost of living in Cape Town is modest compared to other cities in South Africa. NUMBEO says rent in Cape Town is on average and 57.78% lower than in Lagos. A recent report by Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey revealed Cape Town unemployment level at 29%, the lowest in the country as well as in major cities across the continent. The result can be attributed to the City’s strategic and targetted approach to fostering employment and business growth, reliable infrastructure, and the Investment Facilitation Unit and this, of course, explains the continuous influx of people to the city in search of greener pastures.

Cape Town was among the cities in South Africa where the 2010 FIFA World Cup was played and this exposure further opened it up to the rest of the world who were not aware that such a developed place existed in where was considered a dark continent. Since the 2010 World Cup ended, the city has continually witnessed a high influx of tourists from across the world, year in year out.

10 Other Biggest Cities In Africa By Development

10. Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi is one of the most attractive cities in Africa. This city attracts countless tourists and diplomats owing to the fact that it harbors some international organizations such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the main coordinating headquarters for the UN in Africa and the Middle East at the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON).

9. Gaborone, Botswana

Botswana’s Gaborone is placed among the most developed cities in Africa. This city is famous for housing some of the world’s most productive diamond mines. Gaborone’s growing economy does not just attract foreign investors but also provides sustainable jobs to the inhabitants of the city which are estimated at 208,411.

8. Algiers, Algeria

Algiers in Algeria is one North African city that surrounds itself with attractive architecture, laced with its white-sand beaches. It is known for having one of the strongest economies in the region. The city enjoys quite friendly weather conditions, top-notch hotels, as well as inviting Mediterranean beaches. It has one of the strongest economies on the continent. As a result of its infrastructural developments and strong economy, the city keeps experiencing an influx of people. Its current population is 2.8 million.

7. Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos is renowned as Africa’s and the world’s most populous city. This city is among the most developed on the continent. The former capital of Nigeria prides itself as West Africa’s economic center. In addition to being the economic hub of West Africa, Lagos is known as the city with the best nightlife within the continent as it is popularly referred to as the city that never sleeps. It is one of the busiest cities on the continent, with many enterprises and fast growth and development.

6. Tunis, Tunisia

As far as North Africa is concerned, Tunis is the most developed city within the region. The city has metamorphosed into one of the most developed cities in Africa, with a top-ranking tourist destination, making it one of the most visited towns in North Africa.

5. Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Abidjan in Ivory Coast is among the most advanced and developed cities in Africa. Although Ivory Coast has been through a lot in its history, Abidjan has constantly developed. The city has as a result been witnessing an influx of visitors and tourism seekers.

4. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dar Es Salaam is one city that is considered to be a modern city in Africa. It is also known for its peaceful and tranquil nature despite playing host to the largest market in East Africa, Kariakoo. The city also boasts of having breathtaking tourism locations such as Bongoyo Island, Mbudya Island, National Museum of Tanzania, Askari Monument, Cocoa Beach and more for the delight of its growing number of tourists.

3. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The Ethiopian capital has also made it on this list. Addis Ababa is notable for having one of the busiest international airports in Africa in addition to its cutting-edge hotels that have made it a tourist hub.

2. Johannesburg, South Africa

Again, South Africa’s second-largest city, Johannesburg, made it on this list as one of the top 10 most developed cities in Africa. The city is one of South Africa’s most beautiful and desirable tourist destinations. Johannesburg is a well-developed city with several magnificent sites and offers one of Africa’s most modern construction breakthroughs such as skyline buildings. It also has some of the finest hotels on the African shores.

1. Port Louis, Mauritius

Known for its beautiful landscape and tourist destinations, Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, is also regarded as one of the most developed cities in Africa. The city has a lot of infrastructures and is such a pleasant sight to behold, with state of the earth facilities and top-notch modern resorts, making it a good tourist destination.

Conclusion

Before now, when the name “Africa” is mentioned, what comes to the mind of so many people especially those living in the West is a primitive, poverty-stricken set of people looking for some sort of superman to come to rescue them. That narrative is fast becoming obsolete as Africans, after the colonial era, took their destinies into their hands to make Africa better. From all that has been discussed above, it can be clearly seen that with the way the cities in Africa are fast developing and advancing very soon, she will cease to be addressed as a third world country and take its place in the center stage.

All things being said, you will agree with me that despite their scarce resources, most African cities are now fast advancing from their underdeveloped status into world-class and developed megacities comparable to other cities in the west or developed nations.

Chacha O
Chacha is a writer with a wealth of experience who has contributed across several channels. Her specialty includes celebrity lifestyle including how top movie stars, musicians, and comedians live their lives.

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