Ranked: African cities with the top potential for inclusive growth

Accra (Ghana), Casablanca (Morocco) and Freetown (Sierra Leone) have been ranked as the African cities with populations over 1m that have the highest potential for inclusive growth on the continent, according to the 2014 MasterCard African Cities Growth Index (ACGI).

The United Nations estimates that 60% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population will be living in cities by 2050.

MasterCard’s index makes use of a number of indicators (such as infrastructure and business environment) to rank the level of inclusive urbanisation of 74 African cities, determining their potential for inclusive growth. This potential is classified as either high, medium-high, medium-low or low.

“Inclusive growth occurs when the benefits of an expanding economy are widely shared with the population,” says Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, co-author of ACGI and chief economist at the MasterCard Centre for Inclusive Growth.

“We believe that inclusive urbanisation is a prerequisite for inclusive growth, and so the ACGI is a lens through which African cities can be assessed as future investment destinations.”

The 74 African cities were ranked in three categories according to their population size. In cities with populations exceeding 1m, Ghana’s capital Accra topped MasterCard’s list for the second consecutive year, and was also the only African city categorised as having high growth potential.

George Angelopulo, professor at the University of South Africa and co-author of the ACGI, says Accra ranked well across the assessment criteria and received one of the highest governance scores.

“The city is not Africa’s most populous or richest in terms of per capita GDP, but has made progress towards conditions that are conducive to inclusive urbanisation,” he notes

Casablanca, the economic and business centre of Morocco, and Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, are in second and third positions respectively, labelled as having medium-high inclusive growth potential.

Top 10 large cities – population over 1m
1High growth potentialAccra (Ghana)
2Medium-high growth potentialCasablanca (Morocco)
3Freetown (Sierra Leone)
4Kumasi (Ghana)
5Tripoli (Libya)
6Lagos (Nigeria)
7Medium-low growth potentialPretoria (South Africa)
8Maputo (Mozambique)
9Abuja (Nigeria)
10Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)

In cities with populations between 500,000 and 1m, Tunisia’s capital city, Tunis, was ranked at the top of the list, followed by Libreville (Gabon) and Nouakchott (Mauritania). All three were identified as having medium-high inclusive growth potential.

Matola (Mozambique) was ranked in fourth position, and according to the report, the city has “a swiftly increasing population, high rates of FDI and industrial concentration”.

Top 5 medium cities – population between 500,000 and 1m
1Medium-high growth potentialTunis (Tunisia)
2Libreville (Gabon)
3Nouakchott (Mauritania)
4Matola (Mozambique)
5Medium-low growth potentialPointe-Noire (Republic of the Congo)

The index also reveals that while the large and medium cities with the highest inclusive growth potential are located predominantly in North and West Africa, the top ranked small cities (with populations under 500,000) are located in Africa’s island states.

São Tomé (the capital of the island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe) ranks highest in the small city category, followed by Victoria (Seychelles) and Port Louis (Mauritius).

“São Tomé and Príncipe is resource-rich,” states the report. “The recent discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea is a predictor of high and continuing GDP growth, but its government has not eradicated the income inequality and political instability of previous decades. This could undermine the inclusivity of the city’s economic growth.”

Top 5 small cities – population under 500,000
1Medium-high growth potentialSão Tomé (São Tomé and Príncipe)
2Victoria (Seychelles)
3Port Louis (Mauritius)
4Medium-low growth potentialGaborone (Botswana)
5Windhoek (Namibia)