Africa’s Population Boom—What Does it Mean for Its Future?

If we flash forward to 2050, what countries do you think would have the largest populations in the world? India and China would still be at the top of the list, with Nigeria coming in at number three. The rate of growth in Nigeria, currently the 7th most populous country worldwide, is an example of how Africa will be at the forefront of global population growth. BBC Inquiry took a closer look at how the current trends in Africa will result in such rapid growth, and what that means for Africa’s future.

As with much of the world, advances in medical care and food production have led to reduced death rates, however the fertility rates in Africa are still higher than in much of the world. Analysts believe that in 35 years—one generation—Africa’s entire population will double. But Africa is a diverse place made up of 54 countries. It’s a complex situation, so the BBC focused their attention on the country with the largest current population—Nigeria.

The issues impacting the growth and prosperity of present-day Nigeria will be mirrored in much of Africa. Today, we see a vast gap between the rich and the poor, where a large economy has not led to equity in distribution. In the larger cities, there is a lack of air space to accommodate all the private jets owned by the wealthy. At the same time, there is a lack of public transportation and infrastructure to help move people around the country. In addition, 60% of the population is under the age of 25 and this large group of young people need of education, jobs, and access to social services to ensure a stable future for themselves. If there are no opportunities for the growing youth, discontent could lead to a destabilized country.

So, is there a silver lining amidst the rapid population growth and the strain it can put on countries in Africa? BBC spoke with analysts, including Hans Rosling, who all believe that if social and political changes can be implemented, the future of Africa is a bright one. First, as living standards rise and the rate of family planning services increase, many countries in Africa are already experiencing a drop in fertility—a trend that can be continued with proper government support. Also, the pure number of people in Africa make it a very attractive prospect for investors. Because Africa will remain the youngest region worldwide, businesses see young people as customers and an important part of a growing economy.

Therefore, analysts believe that if we are able to increase access to education and health services, and combine them with decreased fertility, the result will be a very powerful workforce that can change Africa for the better!