Visualizing The Future Urban World

A new app called Urban World beautifully projects how cities around the world are going to explode in growth and economic power by 2025.

Think of the world’s biggest, most important cities and you probably picture London, New York, Beijing, Singapore–the bustling cities of today. But as the world’s population migrates into cities, new urban centers in the developing world will begin to pop up. A new iOS app, Urban World, leverages the McKinsey Global Institute’s database of over 2,600 cities to illustrate how the population, income levels, and GDP of cities will change by 2025.


The app lets users compare a number of statistics (population, household income, GDP) across space and time (2010 and prediction for 2025). Just touch the globe to get insight into an individual continent, country, or city. For even more in-depth data, it’s also worth taking a look at McKinsey’s 2012 Urban World report, which reveals that 440 large cities in emerging economies will make up half of the world’s economic growth by 2025.

So what will the top megacities in emerging markets look like in the future? We’ll see cities in countries like India (Mumbai and Delhi), Brazil (Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro), Nigeria (Lagos), and Turkey (Istanbul), explode in population. Nearly all of these cities will have a growing GDP, but some–like Sao Paolo–will grow more than others.

China will remain a hotspot for global population growth. According to McKinsey, the 600 “hot spot” cities that are tops in growth will see their population rise 1.6 times faster than the world as a whole. Among those cities: Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, and Tianjin.

The app is beautiful enough to attract casual users, but policymakers would also do well to check it out. As McKinsey explains in a summary of the Urban World report, “Understanding cities and their shifting demographics is critical to reaching urban consumers and to preparing for the challenges that will arise from increasing demand for natural resources (such as water and energy) and for capital to invest in new housing, office buildings, and port capacity.”

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.