Introducing … The Most Dynamic Cities of 2025

An exclusive look at the 75 powerhouses of the urban revolution.

Getty Images
Getty Images

The list of the world’s most dynamic cities is here.

If there’s any bright spot in an otherwise dim outlook for the global economy, it’s the rise of cities. With fragile growth in Europe and the United States, the shift in economic balance toward the East and South is happening with unprecedented speed and scale — and it’s happening through urbanization. Quite simply, we are witnessing the biggest economic transformation the world has ever seen as the populations of cities in emerging markets expand and see their incomes rise as never before, producing massive geopolitical shifts and a wave of new consumers whose spending power will change the way the world shops and invests.

More than ever, cities matter. Today, just 600 urban centers generate about 60 percent of global GDP. But though 600 cities will continue to account for the same share of global GDP in 2025, this elite group will have a very different membership. Over the next 15 years, the urban world’s center of gravity will move farther south and, even more decisively, east.

Which is why we’ve put together this unique index of The Most Dynamic Cities of 2025, some 40 percent of which are in just one country: China. Many are places you’ve never heard of, from Fuzhou to Wuhan, and speak to the massive transformation of a country that looks to lead the 21st century’s urban revolution as much as the United States reinvented the metropolis for the 20th. The West will not be quite eclipsed by 2025 — 13 U.S. cities make the list, though only three in Europe — but the sun is indeed setting. Even beyond the extraordinary 29 Chinese cities on the list, there are many — from Luanda to Abu Dhabi, Ankara to Santiago — that were small towns of the last century but are likely to be household names a few decades from now.

The list is drawn from the McKinsey Global Institute‘s exclusive Cityscope database of more than 2,650 cities, which uses internal projections for populations as well as data from local statistical offices and the United Nations, and is based largely on national per capita GDP growth rates. We think these 75 cities will make the greatest contribution to the global economy in the coming years. Put together, they are likely to supply more than 30 percent of all GDP growth between now and 2025. They are the world’s economic engines.

Of course, the big cities of today — the New Yorks and Tokyos, Londons and Chicagos — are, without a doubt, still giants. Almost half of global GDP in 2010 came from only 362 cities in developed regions, with more than 20 percent of global GDP coming from 187 North American cities alone.

Fast-forward to 2025, though, and one-fourth of these developed-market cities will no longer make the top 600. By 2025, 99 new cities are expected to enter the top 600, all from the developing world and overwhelmingly — 72 new cities — from China. By 2025, the world’s top 600 cities will be home to an estimated 220 million more people of working age and account for more than 30 percent of the expansion of the potential global workforce. Almost all this increase is likely to be in emerging markets — and half of it in the leading cities of China and India.

China’s urbanization is thundering along at an extraordinary pace; it’s happening at 100 times the scale of the world’s first country to urbanize — Britain — and at 10 times the speed. Over the past decade alone, China’s share of people living in large cities has increased from 36 percent to nearly 50 percent. In 2010, China’s metropolitan regions accounted for 78 percent of its GDP. If current trends hold, the Middle Kingdom’s urban population will expand from approximately 570 million in 2005 to 925 million in 2025 — an increase larger than the entire current population of the United States.

Projecting the evolution of cities is an inherently fraught business. The destinies of metropolises vary widely depending on the wisdom of their leaders, broad economic trends, the success of local business endeavors, and, of course, luck. So sure, real estate bubbles may burst and China’s torrid growth rates may return to Earth, but across a range of macroeconomic scenarios, whether growth is slower or faster, our findings on patterns of urban growth hold: Barring some unforeseen disaster, the future of the world’s cities will largely be written in Chinese.

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