The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) recently released a publication Generation 2030 / Africa which focuses on population growth in Africa. While much of the world is experiencing a slowdown in population growth, the same cannot be said for sub-Saharan Africa. If the UNICEF projections are correct, significant resources are needed to improve the region’s transportation, sanitation and water infrastructure; power generation and food supplies. Without income growth and policies to provide more jobs and better living conditions parts of Africa may see even greater unrest in the future.
Africa, already the world’s second most populous continent with over 1 billion inhabitants, is experiencing a demographic shift unprecedented in its scale and swiftness. In the next 35 years, 1.8 billion babies will be born in Africa; the continent’s population will double in size; and its under-18 population will increase by two thirds to reach almost 1 billion.
In just 35 years, Nigeria’s population will be 2.5 times its current size, reaching 440 million. By 2015 one fifth of the continent’s births will take place in Nigeria alone, accounting for 5 per cent of all global births. From 2015 to 2030, 136 million births will take place in Nigeria.
In 2015, in 15 African countries, more than half of the population will be under 18. These countries include Niger (57 per cent); Uganda and Chad (both 55 per cent); Mali, Angola and Somalia (all 54 per cent); Zambia (53 per cent); Gambia, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Malawi (all 52 per cent); the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Republic of Tanzania, Burundi and Nigeria (all 51 per cent).
Nine in 10 children in Africa live in the 26 low-income and 17 lower-middle-income countries.
Almost 2 billion babies will be born in Africa between 2015 and 2050 due to high fertility. Continued high rates of fertility and an increasing number of women of reproductive age are the driving force behind Africa’s surge in births, although divergences have appeared between countries and communities within countries in the region. Each African woman on average will have 4.7 children in 2010-2015 — far above the global average.
Continuous urbanization will most likely lead to the majority of Africa’s people and children living in cities in less than 25 years. Currently, 40 per cent of Africa's population lives in cities. The past few decades have seen a frenetic pace of urbanization, considering that in 1950 just 14 per cent, and in 1980 just 27 per cent of the continental population was classified as living in urban areas.
Should the population projects prove even close to accurate, the effect on global agricultural production and trade would be significant. Sub-Saharan Africa has been touted as both a future breadbasket as well as a significant future market for export sales from North and South America. To increase agricultural production most African nations must address land rights, infrastructure, removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers, ease of border crossings, market transparency, and significant reduce the levels of corruption. For example, Shoprite (South Africa) has stated that it can take 117 days for products sent from South Africa to reach the retail shelf in Lagos, Nigeria. In short Africa may be the agricultural continent of the future, but what they purchase in significant quantities may be the very basic foodstuffs, and unless changes are made these basics will become even more expensive.