africa population

African Population

The last 100 years have seen an incredible increase in the planet’s population. Some parts of the world are now seeing smaller increments of growth, and some, such as Japan, Germany, and Spain, are actually experiencing population decreases.

Africa Population 2016

Africa is the second-largest and second most populous continent on earth with an estimated population in 2013 of 1.033 billion people. Africa is home to 54 recognized sovereign states and countries, 9 territories and 2 de facto independent states with very little recognition. The UN Population Fund stated in 2009 that the population of Africa had hit the one billion mark and had therefore doubled in size over the course of 27 years. As of 2015, the population estimates are around 1.166 billion.

The Population Fund’s Director Thoraya Obeid spoke to the BBC at the time and underlined the reasons behind the growing population.

“Africa countries are all growing fast… because there is large number of women who have no access to planning their families” she said. “It’s an African phenomenon of a large growing population and a large percentage of young people in the population.”

Africa Population Growth and Life Expectancy

56 countries make up the continent of Africa and while population growth is relatively low in some areas, countries such as Nigeria and Uganda are increasing at an advanced rate. In most countries in the continent, the population growth is in excess of 2% every year.

In addition, there is a high proportion of younger people within the Africa population as a whole and the life expectancy is also low – less than 50 in many nations. This has reduced considerably over the course of the last twenty years with a widespread HIV and AIDS epidemic taking much of the blame for that statistic.

Infant mortality is also extremely high and in Angola, it is reported that there are 190 deaths per 1,000 live births. All of these statistics could be expected to lead to a fall in population numbers but in Africa, the issue over family planning leads to the reverse effect.

Africa Demographics

As far as demographics are concerned, the African nations as a whole are made up from such a diverse set of components that it is impossible to list them in full. However, in certain parts of the continent there has been an increase in Asian and even European settlers which has also served to boost the population statistics as a whole.

In former British colonies, this can be seen extensively and Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa are all good examples as to a growing set of diverse ethnicities.

The population in Africa has grown rapidly over the last 40 years and it has a relatively young population, with more than half of the population under 25 in some states.

Most Populous Countries in Africa

  • Nigeria: 173,611,131
  • Ethiopia: 95,045,679
  • Egypt: 82,196,587
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: 67,363,365
  • South Africa: 52,914,243

Least Populous Countries in Africa

  • Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (UK) (non-sovereign): 4,000
  • Seychelles: 93,033
  • São Tomé and Príncipe: 194,161
  • Mayotte (France): 217,000
  • Cape Verde: 501,674

Africa Population Growth

Any expert would find it hard to argue with the commonly held view that the population of Africa in 2013 and beyond is set for further increases. With little or no measures in place to address the issue, the 1.9 billion prediction for 2050 is entirely plausible.

Africa currently has a very low population density of about 65 people per square mile, which puts it behind Asia, Europe and South America. The population of Africa is currently projected to quadruple in just 90 years, with a growth rate that will make Africa more important than ever to global economy and more.

Africa’s Nigeria is currently one of the most populous countries on earth and, as China’s population shrinks and India plateaus, Nigeria will reach nearly 1 billion people by 2100 and come close to surpassing China. This is pretty amazing considering the country is about the size of Texas. Nigeria is set for one of the biggest population booms in world history and it’s expected to increase by a factor of eight in just two or three generations.

The boom in Africa’s population will be in sub-Sahara, including in countries like Tanzania, which is one of the poorest countries on earth. Just 13 years ago, the country’s population was 34 million, which has now grown to 45 million but is projected to reach 276 million by 2100, which is close to the current population of the U.S.

Many consider Africa’s population growth a bit frightening, with predictions placing the continent’s population at 1.9 billion by 2050. By 2100, 3/4 of the world’s growth is expected to come from Africa, reaching 4.1 billion people by 2100 to claim over one third of the world’s population. Most countries will at least triple in population as the region has very high fertility rates and very little family planning in most regions.

As much of Africa is still developing, and it contains some of the poorest countries on earth, time will tell how it will sustain such massive population growth.

Population boom: 40% of all humans will be African by end of century

The continent of Africa, however, is not following this pattern. Now home to 1.2 billion (up from just 477 million in 1980), Africa is projected by the United Nations Population Division to see a slight acceleration of annual population growth in the immediate future.

Africa’s rising population and youth unemployment challenge

In the past year the population of the African continent grew by 30 million. By the year 2050, annual increases will exceed 42 million people per year and total population will have doubled to 2.4 billion, according to the UN. This comes to 3.5 million more people per month, or 80 additional people per minute. At that point, African population growth would be able to re-fill an empty London five times a year.

From any big-picture perspective, these population dynamics will have an influence on global demography in the 21st century. Of the 2.37 billion increase in population expected worldwide by 2050, Africa alone will contribute 54%. By 2100, Africa will contribute 82% of total growth: 3.2 billion of the overall increase of 3.8 billion people. Under some projections, Nigeria will add more people to the world’s population by 2050 than any other country.

The dynamics at play are straightforward. Since the middle of the last century, improvements in public health have led to a inspiring decrease in infant and child mortality rates. Overall life expectancy has also risen. The 12 million Africans born in 1955 could expect to live only until the age of 37. Encouragingly, the 42 million Africans born this year can expect to live to the age of 60.

A seismic shift in demographic trends is transforming the world into an increasingly African place, creating huge economic opportunities, as well as new risks for political instability and extreme poverty, a United Nations agency says.

“The future of humanity is increasingly African,” says a report by the UN children’s agency to be issued on Tuesday, based on revised population forecasts that reveal an unprecedented demographic shift this century.

Africa accounted for only 9 per cent of the world’s population in 1950, but by the end of this century about 40 per cent of all humans (and nearly half of all children) will be African, heralding one of the fastest and most radical demographic changes in history, the report says.

While every other continent is seeing a slower rise in births, or even a decline, UNICEF projects that 1.8 billion babies will be born in Africa over the next 35 years, and the total African population will nearly quadruple to about 4.2 billion by the end of the century.

Lagos is expected to soon overtake Cairo as Africa’s largest city.

Meanwhile, another key demographic variable – the number of children the average African woman is likely to have in her lifetime, or total fertility rate – remains elevated compared to global rates. The total fertility rate of Africa is 88% higher than the world standard (2.5 children per woman globally, 4.7 children per woman in Africa).

In Niger, where GDP per capita is less than $1 per day, the average number of children a woman is likely to have in her life is more than seven. Accordingly, the country’s current population of 20 million is projected to grow by 800,000 people over the next 12 months. By mid-century, the population may have expanded to 72 million people and will still be growing by 800,000 people – every 18 weeks. By the year 2100, the country could have more than 209 million people and still be expanding rapidly. This projectionis based on an assumption that Niger’s fertility will gradually fall to 2.5 children over the course of the century. If fertility does not fall at all – and it has not budged in the last 60 years – the country’s population projection for 2100 veers towards 960 million people.

As recently as 2004, the United Nations’ expected Africa to grow only to 2.2 billion people by 2100. That number now looks very out of date.

What has caught demographers off-guard – and has required such dramatic revisions – is that African fertility has not fallen as expected. Precipitous declines in fertility in Asia and Latin America, from five children per woman in the 1970s to around 2.5 today, led many to believe Africa would follow a similar course.

Strong national family planning programmes in various parts of the world jump-started a virtuous circle: fertility declines allowed more educational and other resources to be deployed per capita than otherwise would have been possible. In turn, relatively more educated girls and women were able to increase their economic value and societal status – allowing for even greater agency to access and use contraception.

Unfortunately, since the early 1990s, family planning programmes in Africa have not had the same attention, resulting in slow, sometimes negligible, fertility declines. In a handful of countries, previous declines have stalled altogether and are reversing. Beyond unreliable supplies of contraceptives in many countries the greater obstacles to lower fertility are often male opposition to contraception, religious teachings, social norms, or misinformation about contraceptive options and their side-effects.

These dynamics create the opposite of a virtuous circle. Rapid population growth helps overstrain educational systems and local economies and can be a challenge to any government. Many areas of Australia and England, both fast-growing countries, are contending with overcrowded schools, congested highways and stratospheric housing costs. The reality is that as the size of any populace expands, governments must construct infrastructure apace.

Failure to do so results in per capita declines in living standards. In already economically strained nations, physical goods such as roads, bridges, water supplies, sewers and electricity systems are crucial, but scaling-up educational, public health and security systems are also required. Unemployment, instability and entrenched poverty follow suit. Uneducated girls and women are less likely to overcome social barriers to contraceptive use, such as domineering paternalistic cultures or religious prohibition. Fertility remains high and human suffering builds steam.

A few heroic efforts, such as Family Planning 2020, are attempting to stimulate family planning programmes across the continent, and there are some signs of success. Recent figures from Kenya and Zambia show substantial strengthening of contraceptive use among married women. In Kenya, 58% of married women now use modern contraception, and in Zambia this measure has risen from 33% to 45% in the last three years.

In both cases, the catalysts for improvements were government commitment and commensurate budget financing. The virtuous circle may not be completely out of reach, but many more African governments must make haste and make substantial investments in contraceptive information and access for their people.

Africa could reap a massive demographic dividend from its bigger labour force and relatively fewer dependents, the report says. The population boom could “transform the continent, breaking centuries-old cycles of poverty and inequality.”

But the opposite is also possible, and requires urgent discussion soon, UNICEF warns. “Unless investment in the continent’s children is prioritized, the sheer burden of population expansion has the potential to undermine attempts to eradicate poverty through economic growth, and worse, could result in rising poverty and marginalization of many if growth were to falter.”

The new projections are based on the latest revised numbers from the UN’s population division, showing an even stronger shift in child demographics in Africa’s direction.

Until recently, the UN had predicted that one-third of the world’s children would be living in Africa by mid-century, yet that prediction is now believed to be an underestimate. Instead, 37 per cent of the world’s children will be African by 2050, and more than 40 per cent of births will take place in Africa.

The population explosion will be biggest in West Africa, especially in Nigeria. By 2050, Nigeria alone will account for an astounding one-tenth of all births in the world, the report says, and its total population will reach nearly a billion by the end of the century.

Fertility rates are declining in Africa, but they remain far higher than anywhere else in the world, the report says. At the same time, life expectancy and child survival rates have drastically improved in Africa, helping explain the population boom.

“Within 20 years, Africa will have its first generation of children who can expect to reach pensionable age,” UNICEF says, predicting that African life expectancy will reach 65 years in the next two decades. (By contrast, in the 1950s, African life expectancy was less than 40.)

As part of these trends, Africa will become increasingly urbanized and crowded. In 1950, its population density was just eight persons per square kilometre. By mid-century, Africa will hold 80 people per square kilometre. Its megacities will soar in size, with the population of Lagos nearly doubling to 24 million by 2030 and Kinshasa growing from 12 million to 20 million in the same period.

Much of the population boom is occurring in the poorest and most fragile countries. The world’s highest fertility rate is believed to be in the impoverished West African nation of Niger, where the average woman has 7.5 children, the UNICEF report says. The next-highest fertility rate is in a neighbouring country, Mali, where the average woman has 6.8 children.

The report calls for “courageous and determined action” to face the challenges of the African population boom. It cites, for example, the continued lack of contraception for many African women. About a quarter of all women in marriages or unions in sub-Saharan Africa lack the reproductive heath services they need, the report says. It also calls for stronger programs to improve the education of girls and to end child marriage.

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