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Cities and Drivers for Urban Growth

Cities are formed through people’s movement from rural to urban areas. As the world grows, more and more people continue to move to urban areas searching for better opportunities and being attracted to the allure of city life. Rural areas are declining in populations, while urban areas are experiencing a significant surge in their population levels. In the end, the imbalance is unsustainable, and governments have to look for ways to balance the two because high urban growth rates do not always mean well for nations.

The initial cities were formed thousands of years ago in places where land had fertility. Such towns were started in regions of history like Mesopotamia. The cities had communities living in the area around the rivers of Euphrates and Tigris- a very fertile region in those days. There were also cities along with river Nile formation in ancient Egyptian culture. People became farmers by crop cultivation and permanent settlements. Production of agricultural commodities in these fertile areas necessitated the community’s lifestyle change from nomadism which they hunted and gathered, to a more settled lifestyle due to food surplus (National Geographic Society, 2021). Settling along the waterways provided the people with a form of transportation system required to facilitate trading activities.

Over the next several millenniums, the growth of cities and their expansion continued. Some cities’ growth happened over time, while others grew to prominent statures within a short period. Most of the earliest cities dominating the development of humankind in earlier times no longer exist. At the same time, others saw a reduction in their population, power, and influence. For example, Rome in Italy had a million people in the first century B.C.E. It reduced to about 20,000 inhabitants during the middle ages. However, the cities of the world continue to grow.

In history, cities have attracted big populations because they are crucial commercial, educational and cultural centers. However, population increase in the cities is not always steady. For a fact, the urban growth concept is new as many people lived in rural areas until recent times. For example, most of the global population resided in rural settlements in 1800. The United States saw an increase in population to urban areas between 1800 to 1900.

Cities mainly grew due to the industrial revolution, which started in England towards the mid-18th century and spread to the United States and other parts of Europe. There was a rise in factories; thus, demand for work grew in towns. London increased in population from a million people in 1800 to over six million a decade later. In a few decades, urbanization in the United States overgrew, boosting populations in New York City to the top of the world based on its population in 1950. The people stood at 12.5 million.

New technologies have aided growth in urban populations; they have enabled epically building skyscrapers due to innovation in the steel industry. The actions have helped the support of high population densities. The growth rates can be attributed to more births to the populations already living in urban areas and increased migration to the cities as people seek better opportunities.

In recent times, big cities have come up to and given mega cities reflecting on their enormous populations and infrastructure developments. New York and Tokyo were the first megacities in the 1950s. In the industrial age, big cities were found in America and Europe. However, in the modern day, Asia and Africa are the leading continents in urban population growth because of industrial growth.

The biggest driver for urban growth in the world today is the lack of opportunities in rural areas. People are migrating to towns to look for better opportunities through employment and businesses. The modernization changes found in the urban center are also attractive to people and the social benefits and services that come from living in cities instead of rural areas. The inequality in resource distribution and government focus in rural and urban areas attract people to move and settle in cities because they have a better lifestyle than other areas. Industrialization also continues to be a significant factor influencing rural to urban migration as people find more employment opportunities in cities. Furthermore, skilled labor is rarely utilized in rural areas, so learned people prefer to settle in cities where there is a chance of finding a job in one’s specialty.

There exists no global definition on how to classify different forms of urbanization. There are no criteria for how an urban center is assigned city, town, or metropolitan. Therefore a city in one country might not fit the qualification of that term in another country (The World Bank, 2021). The primary criteria used by most nations in their classification of the urban centers mainly depend on their levels of development. In first-world nations, the name city applies to massive urban centers with big populations. However, in medium or developing nations, the term city can be loosely used to mean an urban center with less than a million inhabitants and very little infrastructure development compared to cities from developed countries.

Humankind faces a lot of dangers in the modern-day world. From political upheavals in developing nations to catastrophic effects of climate change worldwide coupled with high population growth rates and reduction in natural resources in many countries. It has necessitated people to move from rural to urban dwellings to look for better life and opportunities. Urban migration, in the beginning, was hailed as the solution to most world problems. However, that is no longer the case today, as the populations have grown to unsustainable levels. Most government s especially from developing populations, cannot sustain these populations. For example, Lagos in Nigeria is the biggest city in Africa, with about 12.5 million people, yet more than half of these live in poor slum conditions (Güneralp et al., 2017). The population increase and overexploitation of resources in rural areas are putting the world in danger due to climate change affecting the primary economic activity of rural populations, agriculture necessitating the movement of people to urban areas.

The growth of cities brings with it a host of advantages to countries that have adopted urbanization. For instance, Tokyo has become a central economic hub in Japan and a key driver in its economic growth by attracting significant industries due to its enormous population and the Japanese government providing a conducive business environment (Silva et al., 2018). Tokyo’s population is also highly skilled, meaning that technology drives the city from railroads to the health and hospitality industry. Everything relies on technology, and the town is very effective and efficient in its operation.

In the middle east, in nations like Saudi Arabia, populations are far apart due to unpredictable climate and harsh weather conditions, and the nations have sparsely populated. The growth and development in these countries have necessitated the movement of people to major cities where the government can better cater to them through provisions of social amenities and services, thereby improving their quality of life (Derudder & Taylor, 2020). For instance, Riyadh is critical in the provision of basic amenities to the people of Saudi Arabia. Due to mega infrastructures and developments found in some cities, people gain interest in visiting them, thereby making them a tourist hub. For instance, Dubai, owing to its location, history, and mega infrastructural developments, most people visit as tourists to experience the place and its culture. New York City in the United States is famous for its vibrant social life, especially during night times. The residents and visitors alike have a chance at visiting the most iconic places in the city as they socialize. The city also boasts a vibrant hospitality industry that supports visitors that the city hosts all year round.

Despite the many benefits of having cities, there are also some significant downsides to these developments. Most nations, especially the underdeveloped and those undergoing development, have experienced many urban development challenges. For instance, due to high unemployment rates in Johannesburg in South Africa, the crime rate has spiraled, and the city is now regarded as having one of the highest crime rates in Africa (The World Bank, 2021). The increase in population experienced in cities is also proving to be a big burden on social amenities provided by the government to their citizens. Most people move to the cities to live in slums and under deplorable conditions through a lack of basic amenities. For example, the poor neighborhoods of Dharavi in Mumbai city, India, have grown to balloon levels owing to the cities poor planning. The slums are now a threat to the entire city. Cities also have high living costs because almost all amenities are bought, and people have to live out of their pockets. When inflation hits, it becomes even worse since people do not have enough money for sustenance. For instance, Tel-Aviv in Israel has been named as one of the most cities to live.

Urbanization and cities have brought immense development in nations. They have also significantly contributed to economic growth and industrialization in these nations. The growth of technology has pushed for more growth of cities and towns, and the population shift from rural areas to urban centers is a testament to the better quality of life that people find in these cities. However, the sifting of focus from rural to urban areas has not been without its challenges. Most developing and underdeveloped governments lack proper plans to organize cities for better service provision and improvement of livelihoods for those who live in those cities. Their lack of plans results in overwhelming growth rates in unsustainable cities and result in towns turning out to be big slum dwellings for most of the populations. Governments need to look at how to plan for infrastructure and social amenities in cities. They also need to encourage more rural settlements by improving employment opportunities in rural areas and the state of infrastructure and social developments because, as it stands, they cannot sustain the growth rates in urban areas.


Derudder, B., & Taylor, P. J. (2020). Three globalizations shaping the twenty-first century: Understanding the New World geography through its cities. Annals of the American Association of Geographers110(6), 1831-1854.

Güneralp, B., Lwasa, S., Masundire, H., Parnell, S., & Seto, K. C. (2017). Urbanization in Africa: Challenges and opportunities for conservation. Environmental Research Letters13(1), 015002.

National Geographic Society. (2021, July 27). The history of cities.

Silva, B. N., Khan, M., & Han, K. (2018). Towards sustainable smart cities: A review of trends, architectures, components, and open challenges in smart cities. Sustainable Cities and Society38, 697-713.

The World Bank. (2021). Urban population growth (annual %). World Bank Open Data | Data.

The World Bank. (2021). Intentional homicides (per 100,000 people). World Bank Open Data | Data.


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