The question of which city is the largest in Africa has always been a controversial one. This post was put together to bring the controversial nature of the question to an end for good.
The Largest City in Africa
Most people believe Lagos to be the largest city in Africa while the rest believe it to be Cairo. It might come as a surprise to people in both categories to realize that they’ve all been correct all along, technically. Lagos is the largest city in Africa by population while Cairo on the other hand is the largest city by land mass.
Lagos – Largest by Population
Lagos is the largest city in Nigeria, and the largest on the African continent in terms of population size. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and a major financial centre in Africa with the highest GDP. It also houses one of the largest and busiest ports in Africa.
Initially, Lagos emerged as a port city which originated on a collection of islands, which are contained in the present day Local Government Areas of Lagos Island, Eti-Osa, Amuwo-Odofin and Apapa. These islands are separated by creeks, fringing the southwest mouth of Lagos Lagoon, while enjoying protection from the Atlantic Ocean by barrier islands and long sand spits such as Bar Beach.
Lagos grew rapidly into an urban area, expanding to the west of the lagoon to include areas in the present day Lagos Mainland, Ajeromi-Ifelodun and Surulere. This led to the classification of Lagos into two main areas – the Island, which was the initial city of Lagos, before it expanded into the area known as the Mainland. This city area was governed directly by the Federal Government through the Lagos City Council, until the creation of Lagos State in 1967, which led to the splitting of Lagos city into the present day seven Local Government Areas and an addition of other towns from the then Western Region, to form the state.
Lagos went on to become the capital of Lagos State after its creation. However, the state capital was later moved to Ikeja in 1976, and the federal capital moved to Abuja in 1991. Even though Lagos is still widely referred to as a city, the present day Lagos, also known as “Metropolitan Lagos”, and officially as “Lagos Metropolitan Area is an urban agglomeration or conurbation, consisting of 16 LGAs. This conurbation makes up 37% of Lagos State’s total land area, but houses about 85% of the state’s total population.
The exact population of Lagos is disputed. In the 2006, its population was found to consist 8 million people. However, this figure was disputed and was later put at approximately 16 million. As at 2014, the population of Lagos was estimated at approximately 21 million.
Some Interesting Facts About Lagos
- Lagos has the busiest airport in Africa.
- It houses the second longest bridge in the continent.
- It is the fastest growing city in Africa.
- It owns some of the tallest buildings in Africa.
- It has the highest Gross Domestic product in Africa.
Cairo – Largest by Land Mass
Cairo is the capital and largest city of Egypt. It is the largest city in Africa in terms of land mass. The city’s metropolitan area is the largest in the Middle East and the Arab world, and the 15th-largest in the world. Located near the Nile Delta, modern Cairo was founded in 969 CE, but the land composing the present-day city was the site of ancient national capitals, whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo.
Cairo has long been a center of the region’s political and cultural life, and is titled “the city of a thousand minarets” for its preponderance of Islamic architecture. Cairo is considered a World City.
Cairo has the oldest and largest film and music industries in the Arab world, as well as the world’s second-oldest institution of higher learning, the Al-Azhar University. Many international media, businesses, and organizations have regional headquarters in the city; the Arab League has had its headquarters in Cairo for most of its existence.
With a population of 6.76 million spread over 453 square kilometers, Cairo is by far the largest city in Egypt. An additional 9.5 million inhabitants live in close proximity to the city. As at 2014, the population of Cairo was estimated at 20.4 million.
Cairo’s metro, one of two in Africa ranks among the fifteen busiest in the world, with over 1 billion annual passenger rides. The economy of Cairo was ranked first in the Middle East in 2005, and 43rd globally on Foreign Policy‘s 2010 Global Cities Index.
Some Interesting Facts About Cairo
- Cairo hosts one of the oldest universities in the world, Al-Azhar University, which was founded in 975 CE.
- Cairo carries about 5,000 years old of culture.
- Cairo was hit by the plague, one of the most shattering pandemics, for more than fifty times during 1348 and 1517 due to which the population had been reduced to approximately 300,000. The mishap is termed as Black Death and was caused by a bacterium carried by oriental rat fleas that live on the black rats.
- Cairo marked the largest city west of China by 1340 with a population of approximately half a million.