x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Arabian Gulf cities will house 85 per cent of the region’s population by 2020, according to new figures, with urban populations growing fastest in the UAE and Qatar.

The UAE’s urban population will grow to 7.9 million by 2020, an average annual growth of 2.3 per cent from 2010-20, according to the World Urbanization Prospects report. EPA / Ali Haider
The UAE’s urban population will grow to 7.9 million by 2020, an average annual growth of 2.3 per cent from 2010-20, according to the World Urbanization Prospects report. EPA / Ali Haider

Arabian Gulf cities will house 85 per cent of the region’s population by 2020, according to figures released by the United Nations, with urban populations growing fastest in the UAE and Qatar.

The UAE’s urban population will grow to 7.9 million by 2020, an average annual growth of 2.3 per cent from 2010-20, according to the World Urbanization Prospects report by the UN department of economic and social affairs. City dwellers in the UAE will account for 86.7 per cent of the country’s population by 2020, up from 84 per cent in 2010, the report found.

The GCC’s urban population is forecast to grow to 45.1 million by 2020, a 24.9 per cent increase on 2010’s figures. The region’s rural population, by contrast, is forecast to grow by just 7.3 per cent to 7.6 million during the same period. By 2020 city dwellers will account for 85 per cent of the region’s population, up from just under 84 per cent in 2010.

Urbanisation trends in the GCC are in line with those in the wider Mena region, according to the UN. More than 226 million people will be living in cities throughout Mena by 2020, as predominantly youthful populations gravitate toward cities in search of improved work opportunities and better lifestyles.

City dwellers will account for nearly 62 per cent of the Mena region’s total population by 2020, with a 2 per cent average annual urbanisation growth rate across the region until the end of the decade, the report forecasts.

The region’s fastest urbanisation growth is forecast to occur in Sudan, the country in the region with the largest percentage of rural dwellers. Sudan’s urban population is forecast to grow by 2.7 per cent on average to 2020, by which time its urban dwelling population will still account for only 35 per cent of its total population.

Lebanon is forecast to experience the slowest growth in its urban population, with an average annual growth of just 0.7 per cent forecast by the UN.

The UN forecasts nearly 4.3 billion people will live in cities by 2020, representing 56 per cent of the world’s population.

Urbanisation in 2020 is expected to be highest in North America (84.1 per cent), Latin America and the Caribbean (81.5 per cent) and Europe (74.9 per cent). Africa will be the only major region of the world where the population is predominantly rural, with just 43.2 per cent of its population living in cities.

Ensuring a city’s well-being, growth and development in the face of massive urban migration will be among the key topics to be discussed at the Future Cities conference in Dubai from October 8-10.

The conference, which will run alongside the Cityscape Global exhibition, is organised jointly by the Dubai Municipality, Environment Centre for Arab Towns, the Arab Towns Organisation, and Informa Exhibitions.

Topics to be addressed during the three-day event will include issues such as security concerns, waste and water management, transport, energy management, disaster relief and green building.

Future Cities – supported by Commercial Bank of Dubai as official banking sponsor and Lab Createrics as sponsor – will explore the major issues facing world leaders and urban planning experts, including how cities carry out efficient water distribution, the positive impact tourism can have on the environment, how cities can plan for post-recession development, and what strategies can ensure that energy is affordable for everyone.

jeverington@thenational.ae