Cities in Africa: Top 10 Largest and Most Dynamic Urban Centers

June 12, 2024

Africa's cities are growing rapidly both in terms of population and economic significance. This article highlights the ten largest cities by urban population across this dynamic continent, showcasing their unique characteristics and key contributions to their respective countries.

1. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

two people sitting on a bench in front of a train

Kinshasa is not only the largest city in Africa but also the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Known as the financial hub and economic center of the country, Kinshasa has a vibrant culture and bustling markets. Interesting fact: Kinshasa is situated directly across the Congo River from Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, making them the two closest capital cities in the world after Vatican City and Rome.

2. Lagos, Nigeria

Civic Towers, Lekki, Lagos Nigeria aerial view of city buildings during daytime

Lagos holds the title of Africa's second largest city and is a primary economic hub for the continent. It's a melting pot of cultures, languages, and businesses. With its ever-growing tech scene, Lagos is often dubbed the "Silicon Valley of Africa." Interesting fact: Eko Atlantic, an ambitious project currently underway, will expand the coastal city by reclaiming land from the Atlantic Ocean.

3. Cairo, Egypt

person walking near The Great Sphinx

Cairo is Africa's third largest city and the largest in the Arab world. It's a city steeped in history, boasting landmarks like the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Cairo plays a crucial role in Egypt's economy, serving as a political and cultural center. Interesting fact: Cairo's Al-Azhar University, founded in 970 AD, is one of the world's oldest operating universities.

4. Johannesburg, South Africa

a view of a small town on a hill

Johannesburg is the largest city and the economic hub of South Africa and southern Africa. Often called "Joburg" or "Jozi," the city is known for its sprawling urban landscape and rich history tied to the gold mining industry. Interesting fact: Johannesburg does not sit on a river or coastline but on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand hills, which means "The Ridge of White Waters" in Afrikaans.

5. Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Abidjan is Ivory Coast's largest city and economic center. It’s the most populous city in French-speaking West Africa and is known for its modern amenities and vibrant culture. Interesting fact: Abidjan is home to the largest cathedral in the world, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, which can accommodate 18,000 worshippers.

6. Alexandria, Egypt

Citadel of Qaitbay, Alexandria The Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria is considered one of the most important defensive strongholds, not only in Egypt, but also along the Mediterranean Sea coast. It was erected on the exact site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. brown concrete building under blue sky during daytime

Alexandria is Egypt's third-largest city, an ancient capital, and the largest port in the country. Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, the city has a rich history that intersects with various cultures and civilizations. Interesting fact: The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as the Pharos of Alexandria, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

7. Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi is Kenya’s capital city. In addition to its urban core, the city has Nairobi National Park, a large game reserve known for breeding endangered black rhinos and home to giraffes, zebras, and lions. Nairobi is also often used as a jumping-off point for safari trips elsewhere in Kenya. body of water near green trees during night time

Nairobi is the central business hub of East Africa and the capital of Kenya. Known for its natural beauty as well as its skyscrapers, Nairobi plays a crucial role in the maritime activities along the Indian Ocean. Interesting fact: Nairobi National Park, located just 7 km from the city center, is a unique wildlife reserve where you can spot lions, giraffes, and zebras with the city's skyline in the background.

8. Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, located at Africa's southern tip, is the second-largest city in South Africa and is renowned for its stunning landscapes, including Table Mountain and beautiful coastlines. In addition to being a major tourist destination, it serves as the legislative capital of South Africa. Interesting fact: Robben Island, located just off the coast of Cape Town, was where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

9. Algiers, Algeria

Notre Dame D'Afriquebrown concrete building under blue sky during daytime

Algiers is the bustling metropolis and capital city of Algeria, noted for its white-washed buildings and Mediterranean coastline. It is a significant economic and traditional center in North Africa, blending French colonial architecture with Arab influences. Interesting fact: The Casbah of Algiers, a unique Islamic medieval city, is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its narrow alleys and historic mosques.

10. Tunis, Tunisia

@dascalvisual people gathered in one place

Tunis is the capital of Tunisia and a major commercial and logistic hub in the Maghreb region. Known for its blend of modern and ancient architecture, the city serves as an economic and cultural center. Interesting fact: Tunis' medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site, covers over 270 hectares and is home to some 700 monuments, including palaces, mosques, and fountains.

Largest Cities in Africa by Urban Population

City Country Key Information
Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Largest city in Africa, capital, financial hub, and economic center of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Lagos Nigeria Second largest city in Africa and a primary economic hub for the continent.
Cairo Egypt Third largest city in Africa and the largest city in the Arab world.
Johannesburg South Africa Largest city and economic hub of South Africa and southern Africa.
Abidjan Ivory Coast Ivory Coast's largest city and economic center; the most populous in French-speaking West Africa.
Alexandria Egypt Egypt’s third-largest city, ancient capital, and largest port.
Nairobi Kenya East Africa's central business hub and the capital of Kenya.
Cape Town South Africa Southernmost city in Africa, second largest city in South Africa, and legislative capital.
Algiers Algeria Metropolis and an important economic and traditional center in North Africa.
Tunis Tunisia Capital of Tunisia and a major commercial and logistic hub in the Maghreb region.
FAQs About the Largest Cities in Africa

What is the top 10 largest city in Africa?

The ten largest cities in Africa by urban population are Kinshasa, Lagos, Cairo, Johannesburg, Abidjan, Alexandria, Nairobi, Cape Town, Algiers, and Tunis.

Which is the largest city in Africa by population?

Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the largest city in Africa by population.

Why is Lagos important to Africa?

Lagos is a primary economic hub for the continent, known for its vibrant tech scene, cultural diversity, and business opportunities. It is often referred to as the "Silicon Valley of Africa."

What makes Cairo unique?

Cairo is steeped in history and is home to iconic landmarks such as the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. It plays a crucial role in Egypt’s economy, serves as a political and cultural center, and boasts Al-Azhar University, one of the world's oldest operating universities.

What is special about Johannesburg?

Johannesburg is the largest city and economic hub of South Africa and southern Africa. Known for its rich history tied to the gold mining industry, it is unique for not being situated on a river or coastline but on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand hills.

Why is Abidjan significant in West Africa?

Abidjan is the largest city and economic center of Ivory Coast. It is the most populous city in French-speaking West Africa and is known for its modern amenities and vibrant culture.

What is the historical significance of Alexandria?

Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great, is an ancient capital with a rich history that intersects various cultures. It is home to the Pharos of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

What attractions does Nairobi offer?

Nairobi, the central business hub of East Africa and the capital of Kenya, offers a unique blend of natural beauty and urban development. Nairobi National Park, located just 7 km from the city center, allows visitors to spot wildlife with the city skyline in the background.

What is Cape Town famous for?

Cape Town is renowned for its stunning landscapes, including Table Mountain and beautiful coastlines. It is also a major tourist destination and serves as the legislative capital of South Africa.

What makes the Casbah of Algiers unique?

The Casbah of Algiers is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its narrow alleys and historic mosques. It is a unique Islamic medieval city that blends French colonial architecture with Arab influences.

What are the key features of Tunis?

Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, is known for its blend of modern and ancient architecture. The city's medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site, covers over 270 hectares and is home to numerous monuments, including palaces, mosques, and fountains.

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JJ Sterling
As the co-founder of Urban Splatter and an architecture graduate from Chicago, I thrive on crafting a digital nexus where architectural innovation intersects with boundless digital opportunity. My academic roots in the Windy City's rich architectural tapestry inspire a unique vision for Urban Splatter's journey into the ever-evolving digital frontier of design. Join us as we navigate the exciting confluence of structure, style, and technology.

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