Where Are Africa’s Biggest Markets? Introducing the Fraym Urban Markets Index

Africa is in the midst of a massive and historic transformation. Rapid urbanization, rising incomes, a youth bulge, and the diffusion of technology are combining to create exciting future centers of economic growth and opportunity. Richard Florida wrote in Rise of the Creative Class that “human creativity is the ultimate economic resource” and that “denser cities are smarter and more productive.”

Yet, very little data are available about Africa’s burgeoning urban clusters. Most economic, social, and consumer data are provided on a national basis or through costly one-off surveys. Fraym’s proprietary data platform can do better.

For anyone wanting to pinpoint Africa’s largest, wealthiest, and most networked populations, we created the Fraym Urban Markets Index. The Index estimates and ranks every geographic cluster on the continent with at least 300,000 people (n=169 cities) on three dimensions:

  • Economic activity. What is the GDP for the city’s actual geospatial footprint?
  • Consumers. How many people live in a home with a car, motorbike, television, or refrigerator?
  • Connectivity. How networked is the city by trade and air travel?

Here are Africa’s top 20 biggest markets:


Three highlights from the Index:

  1. Cairo, Cairo, Cairo. The clear winner is Egypt’s capital, which tops the overall index and each of the three dimensions. While Johannesburg (2) and Lagos (3) are not surprising, some of the other Top 10 may be more unexpected, like Luanda (4), Kinshasa (5), and Khartoum (8).
  2. West Africa > East Africa. In fact, the consumer class of Lagos is roughly the same size as all thirteen cities in the East African Community combined.
  3. The Franco-underdogs. Several lesser-known Francophone cities far outranked better-known English-speaking capitals. Douala (23), Yaoundé (24), Ouagadougou (26), and Bamako (28) all outranked Lusaka (30), Kampala (37), Harare (51), and Kigali (61).

Read the full Fraym Urban Markets Index paper with methodology and more takeaways (including a few other surprises) here.

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