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Urbanization

How the Expansion of Megacities Will Boost Metal Markets

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How the Expansion of Megacities Will Boost Metal Markets Full

How the Expansion of Megacities Will Boost Metal Markets

Urbanization drives metal demand, and megacities are leading the drive.

As developing economies grow, millions of people are moving to cities to pursue opportunities compounded by proximity and availability to resources. Many of these people see their economic circumstances improve, and consumption increases as a result.

Cars get more numerous, electricity and public transport networks expand, and consumers buy more electronic products for their homes. All of this means more steel, more copper, more aluminum, and more cement are needed.

The rise of China’s megacities in recent decades embodies this growth of living standards and demand for resources. By 2035, Oxford Economics forecasts that Asian cities as a group will be richer than European and North American cities combined, with six Chinese cities on the list of the 10 richest cities globally: Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Tianjin.

By 2035 these six cities are expected to double their wealth, while global average income per capita is expected to increase by only 37% during the same period.

This infographic, based on research from Swann, takes a look at how the growth of megacities will drive metal demand well into the future.

Megacities Metal Megatrend: Growth in Demand to 2035

The Swann Index measures the intensity of use of each metal by looking at global consumption in tonnes between 2014 and 2019, dividing by GDP per capita, and then forecasting demand up until 2035. Here are some key materials and how they are expected to fare:

MetalDemand (tonnes, 2019)Demand (tonnes, 2035)Change (2019–2035)
Nickel2.45.2116%
Steel1.72.650%
Aluminum66.0103.657%
Copper23.629.726%
Zinc13.714.56%

Nickel demand is forecast to increase by 116%, from 2.4 million tonnes in 2019 to 5.2 million tonnes in 2035. The drive is fueled by consumer goods, batteries, and high-value new applications, such as super alloys and stainless steel.

Aluminum and steel are also expected to see significant growth of 57% and 50%, respectively. Aluminum’s growth will be particularly noticeable due to the market size, with an expected demand of 103.6 million tonnes in 2035.

Copper’s demand growth will largely be pushed by decarbonization and the transition to electrification and automated technology. The metal is expected to see demand increase by 26% to 29.7 million tonnes in 2035.

In comparison, zinc is likely to underperform other base metals, with an estimated increase of only 6%. This modest growth reflects strong competition from aluminum in some end-use markets such as diecast alloys.

Future Megacities on the African Horizon

Though megacity demand for metals is being driven largely by Asian growth in 2020, the focus will likely shift in the coming decades.

Projections of future population growth and the world’s biggest cities all point to Africa as the next leader in growth, and subsequently, demand. Estimates show that 17 of the 20 fastest growing cities from 2020 to 2025 are located in Africa.

By 2100, the world’s three largest cities with populations greater than 70 million are projected to be in Africa, with Nigeria’s Lagos leading the way. In fact, of the world’s 20 largest projected megacities, 13 will be in Africa and zero will be located in China.

For now, Asian and primarily Chinese cities are leading demand for urbanization materials and already putting a strain on some metals. Even though the future megacity landscape might change, the expected continued increase in economic growth and incomes will continue to drive metal demand.

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Misc

Mapped: Countries With the Highest Flood Risk

Recent floods in Pakistan have affected more than 33 million people. Where is the risk of flooding highest around the world?

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Risk of Flooding Mapped Around the World

Devastating floods across Pakistan this summer have resulted in more than 1,400 lives lost and one-third of the country being under water.

This raises the question: which nations and their populations are the most vulnerable to the risk of flooding around the world?

Using data from a recent study published in Nature, this graphic maps flood risk around the world, highlighting the 1.81 billion people directly exposed to 1-in-100 year floods. The methodology takes into account potential risks from both inland and coastal flooding.

Asian Countries Most at Risk from Rising Water Levels

Not surprisingly, countries with considerable coastlines, river systems, and flatlands find themselves with high percentages of their population at risk.

The Netherlands and Bangladesh are the only two nations in the world to have more than half of their population at risk due to flooding, at 59% and 58%, respectively. Vietnam (46%), Egypt (41%), and Myanmar (40%) round out the rest of the top five nations.

Besides the Netherlands, only two other European nations are in the top 20 nations by percentage of population at risk, Austria (18th at 29%) and Albania (20th at 28%).

RankCountryFlood risk, by population exposed (%)Total population exposed
#1🇳🇱 Netherlands58.7%10,100,000
#2🇧🇩 Bangladesh57.5%94,424,000
#3🇻🇳 Vietnam46.0%45,504,000
#4🇪🇬 Egypt40.5%38,871,000
#5🇲🇲 Myanmar39.9%19,104,000
#6🇱🇦 Laos39.7%2,985,000
#7🇰🇭 Cambodia38.1%7,431,000
#8🇬🇾 Guyana37.9%276,000
#9🇸🇷 Suriname37.7%233,000
#10🇮🇶 Iraq36.8%16,350,000
#11🇹🇭 Thailand33.9%25,431,000
#12🇸🇸 South Sudan32.5%5,437,000
#13🇵🇰 Pakistan31.1%71,786,000
#14🇳🇵 Nepal29.4%11,993,000
#15🇨🇬 Republic of the Congo29.3%1,170,000
#16🇵🇭 Philippines29.0%30,483,000
#17🇯🇵 Japan28.7%36,060,000
#18🇦🇹 Austria27.8%2,437,000
#19🇮🇳 India27.7%389,816,000
#20🇦🇱 Albania27.6%771,000
#21🇨🇳 China27.5%394,826,000
#22🇹🇩 Chad27.4%4,547,000
#23🇮🇩 Indonesia27.0%75,696,000
#24🇭🇷 Croatia26.9%1,094,000
#25🇸🇰 Slovakia26.7%1,401,000

The Southeast Asia region alone makes up more than two-thirds of the global population exposed to flooding risk at 1.24 billion people.

China and India account for 395 million and 390 million people, respectively, with both nations at the top in terms of the absolute number of people at risk of rising water levels. The rest of the top five countries by total population at risk are Bangladesh (94 million people at risk), Indonesia (76 million people at risk), and Pakistan (72 million people at risk).

How Flooding is Already Affecting Countries Like Pakistan

While forecasted climate and natural disasters can often take years to manifest, flooding affected more than 100 million people in 2021. Recent summer floods in Pakistan have continued the trend in 2022.

With 31% of its population (72 million people) at risk of flooding, Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to floods.

In 2010, floods in Pakistan were estimated to have affected more than 18 million people. The recent floods, which started in June, are estimated to have affected more than 33 million people as more than one-third of the country is submerged underwater.

The Cost of Floods Today and in the Future

Although the rising human toll is by far the biggest concern that floods present, they also bring with them massive economic costs. Last year, droughts, floods, and storms caused economic losses totaling $224.2 billion worldwide, nearly doubling the 2001-2020 annual average of $117.8 billion.

A recent report forecasted that water risk (caused by droughts, floods, and storms) could eat up $5.6 trillion of global GDP by 2050, with floods projected to account for 36% of these direct losses.

As both human and economic losses caused by floods continue to mount, nations around the world will need to focus on preventative infrastructure and restorative solutions for ecosystems and communities already affected and most at risk of flooding.

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Urbanization

Mapped: Energy Consumption Per Capita Around the World

Which countries use the most energy per person?

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map of energy consumption per capita by country

Mapping Global Energy Consumption Per Capita

In the four decades since 1980, global energy consumption doubled from 77 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) to nearly 155 trillion kWh.

But despite soaring energy demand from emerging economies, energy consumption per person only grew by around 14%.

So, which countries consume the most energy per capita today?

The above infographic maps global per capita energy consumption in 2020 using data from Our World in Data. Energy consumption includes electricity, transport, and heating.

The Energy Consumption Leaderboard

The top 10 countries by energy consumption per capita are relatively wealthy and heavily industrialized.

CountryYear of dataEnergy consumption per capita (kWh)
Iceland2020167,175
Qatar2020165,044
Singapore2020162,192
Bahrain2019145,193
Trinidad and Tobago2020123,800
Brunei2019121,637
United Arab Emirates2020117,686
Canada2020100,310
Norway202098,879
Kuwait202098,021
United States Virgin Islands201995,010
Malta201991,685
Saudi Arabia202084,262
Faeroe Islands201980,177
New Caledonia201978,606
Oman202074,514
United States202073,677
Turkmenistan202064,639
Saint Pierre and Miquelon201964,130
South Korea202063,865
Luxembourg202063,726
Greenland201962,156
Europe202028,617
European Union (27)202034,772
Falkland Islands201961,362
Australia202060,660
Sweden202060,494
Taiwan202056,199
Finland202054,962
Netherlands202054,673
Russia202053,895
Belgium202052,510
Bermuda201951,713
Cayman Islands201951,435
Aruba201951,179
New Zealand202048,414
Seychelles201947,768
Kazakhstan202045,950
Guam201944,771
Austria202042,676
Bahamas201941,170
Germany202040,153
Czechia202039,883
Iran202039,785
Estonia202039,024
Japan202037,403
France202037,041
Slovenia202035,850
Malaysia202035,296
Ireland202034,600
Switzerland202034,597
Hong Kong202034,430
Israel202033,625
Slovakia202031,697
Antigua and Barbuda201931,385
Puerto Rico201929,546
Spain202029,541
Poland202029,453
Bhutan201929,338
Panama201928,998
Belarus202028,871
Denmark202028,314
United Kingdom202028,211
China202028,072
Cook Islands201927,921
Hungary202027,834
Bulgaria202027,582
Montserrat201927,374
Italy202026,936
Greece202026,659
American Samoa201926,024
Libya201925,864
Turks and Caicos Islands201925,775
Portugal202025,405
Lithuania202025,365
Nauru201924,818
Martinique201924,598
Barbados201924,537
Mongolia201924,338
Suriname201924,136
Macao201923,858
British Virgin Islands201923,486
Cyprus202023,358
Chile202023,348
Mauritius201923,278
Latvia201923,051
South Africa202022,959
Serbia201922,784
Montenegro201922,650
Croatia202022,105
Guadeloupe201921,483
Laos201921,449
Latvia202021,370
Saint Kitts and Nevis201921,074
Bosnia and Herzegovina201921,068
Ukraine202021,048
Turkey202020,716
Thailand202020,370
Niue201919,975
Argentina202019,352
Romania202019,220
Georgia201918,547
Paraguay201918,398
Maldives201917,493
Azerbaijan202017,037
French Polynesia201916,894
Equatorial Guinea201916,880
French Guiana201916,526
Reunion201915,931
Brazil202015,692
Lebanon201915,614
Uzbekistan202015,542
Armenia201915,538
Saint Lucia201914,909
Jamaica201914,563
Algeria202014,561
Guyana201914,246
Iraq202014,246
Venezuela202014,082
Mexico202013,952
North Macedonia202013,582
Costa Rica201913,159
Vietnam202011,669
Grenada201911,661
Jordan201911,484
Dominican Republic201911,435
Albania201911,266
Dominica201910,994
Ecuador202010,158
Botswana20199,992
Egypt20209,899
Colombia20209,648
Fiji20199,642
Cuba20199,608
Belize20199,247
Saint Helena20198,871
Namibia20198,738
Peru20208,400
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines20198,154
Tajikistan20198,102
Samoa20197,959
Bolivia20197,940
Gabon20197,850
Cape Verde20197,776
Indonesia20207,753
Syria20197,325
El Salvador20197,070
Tonga20196,694
Morocco20206,607
India20206,438
Micronesia20196,334
Honduras20195,803
Guatemala20195,689
Eswatini20195,678
Congo20194,735
Philippines20204,626
Nicaragua20194,372
Pakistan20204,369
Sri Lanka20204,237
Cambodia20193,994
Palestine20193,991
Mauritania20193,976
Africa20203,851
North Korea20193,696
Angola20193,430
Sao Tome and Principe20193,412
Zambia20193,398
Zimbabwe20193,375
Papua New Guinea20193,316
Ghana20193,294
Vanuatu20193,188
Myanmar20193,130
Kiribati20192,739
Senegal20192,703
Bangladesh20202,685
Djibouti20192,598
Benin20192,483
Nigeria20192,481
Cote d'Ivoire20192,417
Mozambique20192,377
Sudan20192,360
Lesotho20192,293
Solomon Islands20192,038
Western Sahara20191,868
Kenya20191,849
Cameroon20191,818
Timor20191,682
Yemen20191,598
Comoros20191,567
Nepal20191,530
Mali20191,289
Guinea20191,212
Togo20191,205
Haiti20191,164
Liberia20191,112
Gambia20191,039
Tanzania2019978
Burkina Faso2019952
Afghanistan2019946
Eritrea2019945
Ethiopia2019944
Uganda2019862
Guinea-Bissau2019721
South Sudan2019705
Madagascar2019677
Malawi2019530
Sierra Leone2019528
Rwanda2019500
Chad2019462
Niger2019451
Democratic Republic of Congo2019403
Central African Republic2019328
Burundi2019319
Somalia2019236

Iceland tops the list and is also the leading generator of electricity per capita. Thanks to the country’s abundance of geothermal resources, geothermal and hydropower plants account for more than 99% of Iceland’s electricity generation.

Many of the top 10 countries are large energy producers or industry-heavy economies. For example, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Kuwait, Norway, and Qatar are among the world’s 15 largest oil-producing countries. Similarly, Trinidad and Tobago is the largest oil and gas producer in the Caribbean and is one of the largest exporters of ammonia globally.

The presence of energy-intensive industries like oil and gas extraction is likely a major factor influencing total and per-person energy use in these countries.

Why is Tiny Iceland So Big on Energy Use?

Why does Iceland use so much energy per person?

Let’s take a look at Iceland’s colossal industrial energy consumption, to see where energy goes:

Sector / Industry2019 energy consumption* (thousand kWh)% of total
Aluminum smelters12,490,26665.9%
Services1,127,6155.9%
Data centers990,0975.2%
Ferroalloy industry897,8464.7%
Residential847,7134.5%
Utilities781,7074.1%
Aluminum foil industry473,7232.5%
Agriculture231,2361.2%
Fisheries78,9400.4%
Other industries1,038,4105.5%
Total18,957,553100%

*Energy consumption excludes losses.
Source: Orkustofnunn – National Energy Authority of Iceland

Iceland’s three Aluminum smelters—Alcoa, Rio Tinto Alcan, and Century Aluminum—consume more energy than all other sectors combined, and account for 30% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. Iceland isn’t particularly rich in bauxite (the raw material used to make aluminum), but cheap and clean electricity are big incentives for aluminum smelters to set up operations on the island.

For similar reasons, Iceland is also a popular destination for data centers and bitcoin mining. The year-round cool climate lowers cooling costs for thousands of computers running around the clock, and clean grid electricity minimizes their carbon footprint.

Overall, it’s not surprising that the residential sector is among the smaller consumers of energy, despite the importance of home heating in a cool climate. Iceland’s industries, especially aluminum smelting, make up the bulk of its energy use, pushing the overall per-person use above all other countries.

The Bottom 10 Countries

Countries at the bottom end of the list are among the world’s least-developed economies, with relatively lower GDP per capita numbers.

Country2019 Energy consumption per capita (kWh)GDP per capita (2020, current US$)
Madagascar677$471.5
Malawi530$636.8
Sierra Leone528$509.4
Rwanda500$797.9
Chad462$659.3
Niger451$567.7
Democratic Republic of Congo403$544.0
Central African Republic328$492.8
Burundi319$239.0
Somalia236$438.3

These countries consumed significantly less energy per capita compared to the global average of 19,836 kWh. In a stark contrast to the countries topping the list, their per capita GDPs are all lower than $1,000.

As economies develop, villages get electrified, megacities emerge, and industries grow, leading to higher overall energy consumption. On a global scale, if economic growth continues, energy consumption per capita is likely to continue its steady increase.

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