A second look at Africa 2050: Continent's population boom could bring terrible headaches - but also mega riches

Continent's occupants will double in the next 35 years. Which are some of the areas worth watching?

LAST month, Unicef’s Generation 2030/Africa Report caused sharp intakes of breath among many on the continent, after it ripped up a number of projected population form books.  The gist of the study was that a major shift in Africa’s population is on the cards, and policy makers would be well warned to anticipate the unexpected. (SEE: These new facts about Africa’s population will simply blow you away).

Among the biggest figures was that Africa’s population will by 2050 double to 2.4 billion. Mail and Guardian Africa played with the numbers—unscientifically but unapologetically so—to see what we could come up with. We came up with plenty.  

Nigeria wants a piece of Uncle Sam’s fabled dream

According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Nigerians formed the biggest proportion of foreign-born populations in the country.

In 2000 there were 162,938 Nigerians in the US, in 2010 they had reached 264,550, a 62% rise, or roughly 5% per year-on-year jump in that period. 

By 2050, the number of Nigerians would have reached 1,868,475 if movement to the US were to continue at current rates. 

In 2010, when the Nigerian population was 159.7 million, the “absentee” Nigerians would have represented 0.16% of the country. In 2050, when the number of Nigerians is projected to have reached 440 million, the same rate would mean about 729,000, or 0.23% of the projected Nigerian population would be outside the country—or 23% of the total African population currently in the US— would be Nigerian.

Why does it matter? Nigerians send back huge sums in terms of remittances—$21 billion in 2013, the highest of any African nation, followed by Egypt at $17 billion, World Bank data showed. The amount of money they will be sending back to Nigeria, would be astounding.

African countries to stay ahead of the population curve

Seven African countries are currently among the 30 most populous countries on earth.  They are Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, DR Congo, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.

On current trends, 1 in every 4 people in the world in 2050 will be African according to the Unicef data.  This means that the next five most populous countries in Africa—Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Cote d’Ivoire and Madagascar would feasibly have moved into the top 30, thus African countries would comprise almost a third of the “Top 30” list.

The UN says that Africa has the chance to benefit economically from such a significant transition as other parts of the world have - if can avoid the mistakes that tend to plague it today.

Great potential, but an educational nightmare.

In 2012, the total number of children of primary school going age in sub-Saharan Africa was 61 million. Yet projections were that 17 million of these would miss school completely, meaning roughly every third child was out of school.

Children under this bracket are generally aged between 6-14, but they could be older. There have been gains—especially due to free education programmes. The UN notes that between 1999 and 2011 the number of children out of school fell by almost half due to such interventions. But that reduction of 1.9 million was just about a quarter of the average fall between 1999 and 2004. 

By 2050, projections show 37% of all children under 18 will be African. This will reach almost one billion, from 547 million in 2015. And with surveys showing most African countries will miss the MDG goal on education, it is frightening to imagine how many more of these children will miss school, if urgent intervention is not made to keep Africa’s entrepreneurs and policy makers of tomorrow in class.

Phone giants dialling Africa’s number frantically

Apple has recently launched its iPhone 6. It is no secret that sub-Saharan Africa barely registers a blip on the US-based firm’s radar. 

Even in South Africa, the continent’s most sophisticated market data showed only 200,000 iPhone users—just 4% of the country’s smartphone market. But overall, some 73 million smartphones are expected to be shipped to Africa this year, against 110 million feature phones. However, over the next three years smart phones sold in the African market are expected to outstrip feature ones.  

By 2050, Africa’s population rate is expected to double from 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion. At current shipping and penetration rates (11% at end 2012 according to informa), it will take three years of existing production to meet a year’s worth of demand in 2050. This also creates opportunities to ship such jobs back to Africa, instead of being concentrated in Asia, or for locally based companies to pick up the slack—Seemhale Telecoms of South Africa is planning to make cheap mobile phones for the regional market.

An Africanised internet?

Last month, internetworldstats.com, which aggregates several sources, found that internet users in Africa had grown 5,219% between 2000 and 2013.

This translates to 240.1 million users on the continent, for a population of 1.125 billion Africans, but only a 21.3% penetration rate. This is also only 8.6% of global users. 

The same penetration rate for Africa’s 2050 population would translate to 511.2 million users, an 11,214% growth since 2000, the fastest of any region. Telco firms such as MTN, Vodacom and Safaricom should be rubbing their hands in glee.

The inexorable march of the African army?

Egypt is Africa’s third largest country by way of population, and the CIA World Factbook records its manpower fit for military service as 35.3 million citizens, with 18 million of these being male. 

Ethiopia’s fit to serve manpower is 24.75 million, while Nigeria could call on 40.7 million, as at 2010. 

At 2050 population figures, when these three countries are expected to have 115 million, 169.5 million and 440 million people respectively, they will be able to call on a combined 208.6 million soldiers, compared to the current 100.75 million.

This would be Nigeria 112 million, Ethiopia 44.6 million and Egypt 52 million. These numbers are already more than half their current population, but could play a bigger role in creating a stable environment for investment—and international clout.

The meat of the problem: How much for Africa 2050?

The global consumption of beef for 2014 is forecast at 58.6 million tonnes, slightly above last year’s 57.0 million tonnes. The biggest traders are the US, Brazil, EU, China and Brazil.

Africa, a global blip, is classified under “others”, a generic term for scores of other countries and which together accounts for 15% of the total production, and 19% of consumption, according to US Department of Agriculture data. Most of this production is in southern Africa.

Experts predict that by 2050 the projected production of meat—including all other livestock—will touch 465 million tonnes. If this were all diverted to Africa in 2050, each African that year would get 193 kilogrammes of meat, a quarter of which would be beef. While this is unlikely to happen, we will still not put away our forks and steak knives—African beef markets have the opportunity to capture a growing market—Johannesburg for example is one of South Africa’s most meat consuming cities –forecasts show that between 2000 and 2030, 64% of overall growth in demand for beef in the country will be accounted for by the city.

Who will be doing brisk sales?

Companies like Coca Cola project that by 2020 most of their fastest growth rates will be in Africa. But Africa’s market is concentrated, with just 10 countries accounting for 81% of private consumption, according to 2011 data by consulting firm McKinsey, the authors of the widely quoted Lions on the move study.

Between 2000 to 2010 consumption rose by $568 billion, and will by 2020 grow a further $410 billion. The biggest categories—accounting for 45% of these cash, will be apparel, consumer goods and food.

The consuming middle class will account for 40% of growth in spending power, McKinsey projected. By 2050, using that rate of growth, we could be talking of a conservative $1.5 trillion in consumption.

This has seen retailers such as Gap, Zara and Wal Mart ride into the region, among other international brands. But the study also noted that sub-Saharan Africans were far more accepting of local brands, creating an opportunity for many local companies. If they can take the  opportunity, Africa will have a strong say in its future.


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