Urbanization refers to the shift of the population from rural areas to urban areas, the process of making an area more urban, the decrease in the proportion of people living in rural areas, and how a population adapts to this change. Urbanization is the process through which cities are formed and grow, and a higher percentage of the population comes to live in these cities.
The world’s population has increased rapidly from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018. According to the United Nations (UN), about 55% of the world lives in urban areas as of 2018. This number is expected to grow to 68% by 2050, adding about 2.5 billion people to urban areas around the world. It is also projected that 90% of this increase will take place in Asia and Africa.
Urbanization causes a unique set of issues for both humans and animals. The rapid growth of urban environments exacerbates issues that these areas already face. Concentrated energy use and vehicle exhaust lead to poor air quality. Large volumes of waste that are poorly managed leads to safety and health problems. Rapid and intensive growth can lead to greater poverty, which is already a pressing issue in many nations. Additionally, one of urbanization’s most pressing problems is environmental degradation.
Luckily, the threats and challenges associated with urbanization can be combated. Governments can combat poverty by promoting job creation and economic development. Pollution can be reduced by exploring and implementing green policies and alternative energy systems. Planting trees and incorporating green spaces throughout cities will help improve air quality and allows the environment to exist among the urban population.
Several countries have 100% urban populations. These countries are:
- Saint Maarten
- Hong Kong
- Vatican City
- Cayman Islands
Many of these countries have low or negative urbanization rates, ranging from -0.44% to 1.78%. Negative urbanization rates are known as counterurbanization or de-urbanization. Counterurbanization happens for several reasons, including job opportunities, simpler lifestyles, needing more space, less expensive costs of living, cleaner air, and wanting a different culture from the urban culture.
The majority of countries with the lowest urban populations are located in Africa; however, many of these countries are also experiencing the highest rates of urbanization. For example, Uganda’s urban population is 25% of its total population; however, its urbanization rate is 5.7%. Burundi’s urban population is 13% and is urbanizing at a rate of 5.68%.
Below are the countries with the highest urbanization rates:
- Uganda – 5.7%
- Burundi – 5.68%
- Oman – 5.25%
- Tanzania – 5.22%
- Burkina Faso – 4.99%
- Mali – 4.86%
- Ethiopia – 4.63%
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo – 4.53%
- Madagascar – 4.48%
- Bahrain – 4.38%
The table below has each country’s urban population percentage and urbanization rate based on the World Factbook’s most recent data.