At a time when Africa is still conceptualized by Americans as a continent rather than a disparate collection of more than 50 diverse countries, several economic power centers have emerged in cities across the region that demonstrate potential for increased tourism.

Cities are and will continue to flourish as the epicenters for both domestic and international travel, and the extent to which they’re both economically robust and developed with mature political institutions in place will determine their tourism readiness. Travelers will continue to seek new destinations as others become more tired, and many African cities stand to benefit from that oncoming wave during the next few decades.

MasterCard’s latest African cities index examined African cities’ economic outlook according to their potential for inclusive urbanization. The 74 analyzed cities were ranked by twenty five economic and social indicators and are organized into three categories by population size: large (more than one million), medium (between 500,000 and one million) and small (under 500,000). Once ranked, the cities fall into one of four bands describing their inclusive growth potential – high, medium-high, medium-low or low.

Two cities in Mozambique emerged as the continent’s centers for highest growth potential, and African cities with medium to high growth potential are all located in Eastern and Western Africa. And one of the greatest barriers to African cities’ economic expansion is the low level of internal trade within the continent. The World Bank estimates that Africa’s regional trade relative to its total trade is 12 percent against Europe’s 72 percent and South East Asia’s 50 percent, for example.

Chart 1: Maputo, Mozambique’s top ranking in the large cities category directly relates to the fact that its percentage of national GDP is among the highest in the world and has a relatively stable government and economy, although it’s still replete with problems that work against growth. These include low population growth (specifically with the middle class), low health and education access rankings and access to electricity, sanitation and water is low but improving.

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Chart 2: For medium cities, Matola, Mozambique (like Maputo) has high GDP per capita growth, improving governance and a stable political environment. Compared to Maputo, its population growth rate is faster and it has a higher percentage of middle class households. But similar to Maputo, Matola has relatively poor but improving levels of health, education and service infrastructure.

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Chart 3: For small cities, Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, has the highest GDP growth per capita and the highest growth potential. It shows high levels of political stability together with Namibia as a whole and it’s the small city with the highest population growth rate.

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Chart 4: Six Nigerian cities’ index values for growth potential increased year-over-year, while two cities in Ghana and four South African cities’ index values all decreased.
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Source: MasterCard

Photo Credit: Downtown Maputo, Mozambique. Rosino / Flickr