We need to remember that although GDP helps us to categorize countries when it comes to economic performance, it does show us only the average for these countries with the omission of any extremes that can be found within their boundaries. If we are interested in a more detailed picture of country's prosperity, we need to look into countries' variation and even more so - their inequalities.
And for that we need a little journey in time...
Before the industrial revolution which marked the beginning of an era of modern economic growth, virtually the entire word was equal - equal in poverty. Most people lived in rural areas, almost 90% of world population worked in farming trying to make the ends meet within the boundaries of their own households. They grew food for themselves, their families and, if there was any surplus, for the local marketplace.
As the world had become more and more urbanized, the lives of these people have changed in fundamental ways leading to inequalities and differences within countries as well. Some people stayed in farms while others decided to move to urban areas in pursuit of a better life, income and opportunities. The widening gap led to more and more inequalities across the world leaving many people behind.
Though there is no clear definition of what 'urban area' stands for, we can agree that an urban area is a settlement where a few thousand people live in a relatively densely settled area with a threshold of about 2,000 to 5,000 people. Understanding the basic differences between these two groups allows us to realize the very nature of the inequalities within the countries and the consequences of these inequalities on the economic growth. The main differences between urban and rural settings are:
Everywhere in the world, urbanization is proceeding rapidly. It is the natural course of human history and the condition that needs to be fulfilled for the countries to grow and to gain economic power. As part of this process, a gross domestic product per capita is rising and so is the proportion of population working in the industry. Please take a look at this beautiful, interactive map of the world's urban population by UNICEF below which I encourage you to explore and hover over HERE.
When we look at urban population growth rates (HERE) we can see that urbanization in Africa is moving fast forward, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many countries are in transition phase from moving from rural to urban area. First map to the right shows us the urban population distribution in the world. Interestingly, this map looks very much like the map of income per person with both North and South American highly urbanized and Africa still very rural. The general conclusion is that richer parts of the world tend to be more urban while poorer more rural. What is interesting however is that the urban population growth rates are the highest in Africa, sometime reaching over 5% annual increase (Uganda 5.4% in 2016).
We will see later on to what do we owe this increase but for now let's summarize with a simple conclusion - urbanization is happening and it is happening fast. Countries previously left behind are catching up. The world's urban population is estimated to rise from a current proportion of half and half to even 50% and 70% by 2030. The countryside is transforming too. New technologies are implemented and more industrial way of farming is adopted by increasing number of farmers. What does it mean for the environment? Can it be a win win situation or is it or a challenge for a sustainable development? We will try to answer these questions.