A quar­ter of the world will be African by 2050

Mail & Guardian - - Africa - Si­mon Al­li­son

Africa’s pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing even faster than pre­vi­ously thought, ac­cord­ing to new pro­jec­tions pub­lished on Oc­to­ber 26 by the United Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund (Unicef).

The re­vised fig­ures pre­dict an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­plo­sion in the num­bers of African chil­dren and youths, driven by high fer­til­ity rates and much im­proved med­i­cal care.

Key sta­tis­tics in­clude:

• By 2050, a quar­ter of the world will be African, with the con­ti­nent’s pop­u­la­tion likely to rise from 1.2-bil­lion to­day to 2.5-bil­lion in 2050.

• By 2100, half the world’s chil­dren will be African. Child pop­u­la­tions on other con­ti­nents are likely to de­cline or stag­nate.

• Africa’s child pop­u­la­tion cur­rently stands at 580-mil­lion, which is four times larger than Europe’s child pop­u­la­tion.

• To cope with this grow­ing pop­u­la­tion, Africa needs an­other 5.6-mil­lion front­line health pro­fes­sion­als — three times cur­rent num­bers — to meet min­i­mum stan­dards set by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, and an­other 5.8-mil­lion teach­ers to meet in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards.

Unicef ar­gues that this “de­mo­graphic div­i­dend” rep­re­sents a huge op­por­tu­nity to ef­fect pos­i­tive change on the con­ti­nent — but only if it’s man­aged cor­rectly.

“It is im­per­a­tive to recog­nise that to­day’s rapidly in­creas­ing child and youth pop­u­la­tions will soon con­sti­tute Africa’s work­ing-age pop­u­la­tion,” said the re­port. “In­vest­ing in their health, pro­tec­tion and ed­u­ca­tion holds the promise for reap­ing a de­mo­graphic div­i­dend in the 21st cen­tury that could lift hun­dreds of mil­lions out of ex­treme poverty and con­trib­ute to en­hanced pros­per­ity, sta­bil­ity and peace on the con­ti­nent.”

But in this op­por­tu­nity there is also risk. “If Africa misses this op­por­tu­nity, pop­u­la­tion growth could lead to ris­ing poverty, marginal­i­sa­tion and in­sta­bil­ity. In­ac­tion will re­sult in an un­prece­dented bur­den, as the con­ti­nent will need to cope with the ex­po­nen­tially ris­ing de­mand on natural re­sources while at­tempt­ing to meet the needs of bil­lions of in­hab­i­tants,” the re­port con­cludes.

Unicef is not alone in its con­cerns. In an in­ter­view with the Mail & Guardian, for­mer Nige­rian pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo said that his great­est fear was the pos­si­bil­ity of a dra­matic, poorly man­aged in­crease in Africa’s youth pop­u­la­tion.

“A youth ex­plo­sion will not be lo­calised. It will be global. It will cut across reli­gion. It will cut across tribe and eth­nic ar­eas. It will cut across ge­o­graph­i­cal ar­eas. It will cut across so­cial ar­eas. It will be a mess,” Obasanjo said.

So se­ri­ously are some pol­i­cy­mak­ers tak­ing this is­sue that par­lia­men­tar­i­ans from the Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of West African States (Ecowas) re­cently pro­posed im­pos­ing a “three-child pol­icy” on cit­i­zens that would limit re­pro­duc­tive free­dom, and pre­cip­i­tate a dra­matic de­cline in birth rates in the re­gion. The cur­rent birth rate in the West African bloc is 5.6 chil­dren per woman, a rate that is among the high­est in the world.

The late Sal­i­fou Diallo, who was the for­mer speaker of the na­tional assem­bly of Burk­ina Faso, re­cently said: “We are in a sit­u­a­tion of un­con­trolled de­mog­ra­phy and we can­not hope for de­vel­op­ment with such a sit­u­a­tion.

“It is ur­gent that we con­tain the de­mo­graphic push in the Ecowas space to pro­mote real, vi­able and durable de­vel­op­ment,” he said. Ex-foot­baller and the lead­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in Liberia’s elec­tions, Ge­orge Weah, vis­ited Pas­tor TB Joshua’s church in La­gos, Nige­ria, to seek sup­port for the Novem­ber 7 runoff elec­tion. Joshua did not proph­esy who would win Liberia’s elec­tion — un­like when he in­cor­rectly said Hil­lary Clin­ton would win the United States pres­i­dency. Joshua said Weah was at the church “be­cause he loves his coun­try and wants God’s choice for Liberia”.

Nige­ria stalls sin­gle cur­rency

Nige­ria has urged the Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of West African States not to rush into cre­at­ing a sin­gle re­gional cur­rency, warn­ing that there are still too many eco­nomic dif­fer­ences be­tween mem­ber states. “[We] will cau­tion against any position that pushes for a fast­track ap­proach to mone­tary union, while ne­glect­ing fun­da­men­tals and other per­ti­nent is­sues,” said Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari.

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