16 new facts about Africa’s population today and in future that you just need to know

Africa is not the source of most migrants, a Nigerien woman can expect to have seven children over her life time...here are the region's demographics.

THE UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs has released its 2015 revision findings to the world’s population, as new data becomes available.

The world’s population is currently estimated to be 7.3 billion—with one billion of these added in just the last 12 years. Sixteen per cent, or 1.2 billion of those people live in Africa, while the vast majority of 4.4 billion, or 60% are in Asia. This gap will be steadily and determinedly chipped at this century.

It will be useful information to Africa as a new set of development goals are set to be agreed on in coming weeks. Mail & Guardian Africa looked at demographic trends in the region as highlighted in the  report (pdf):

1— While the world population is today growing slower than ten years ago, it is projected that by 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people. Of the 2.4 billion to be added to the world’s current population into that year, 1.3 billion, or more than half the growth, will be across Africa.

2— The UN’s new projections are based on what is called the medium projection variant, which assumes a decline of fertility for countries where large families are prevalent, and an increase in those countries where on average there are less than two children per woman. But a rapid increase in Africa is still anticipated, with the region the only one that will see marked growth after 2050. This means the continent will account for 39% of world population by 2100, while Asia’s will fall to 44%.

3— Between 2015 and 2100, the populations of 33 countries have a high probability of at the very least tripling. By 2050, the populations in some 28 African countries will double. And by 2100, Angola, Burundi, DR Congo, Malawi, Niger, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia will see their populations increase at least five times.

4— Over the next 35 years, half of the world’s total population growth will be concentrated in nine countries, and five of those will be African: Nigeria, DRC, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. The others are India, Pakistan, Indonesia and the United States.

5— Nigeria, at seventh position,  is the only African country among the world’s 10 most populous countries today, and will further cement that position as it is growing most rapidly. In 2050 it will become the world’s third largest country, surpassing the US. Ethiopia, Egypt, DRC and South Africa also make it into the current top 25. In an indicator of how fast Africa is growing, by 2100 five of ten most populous countries will be African. 

6— Some 21 countries globally are classified as “high-fertility”, where the average woman has five or more children over her lifetime. These countries account for nine per cent of the world’s population, and 19 of them are in Africa, of which the largest are Nigeria, DRC, Tanzania and Uganda.

7— Yet Africa has also seen a decline in fertility in the last ten years, from 4.9 children per woman in 2005 to 4.7 children in 2015. It is a trend in the region that will be most marked in the last three decades to 2100. Europe in contrast saw total fertility rise from 1.55 children per woman to 1.6 children over the same period, the only region that saw an increase.

8— At 98 births per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 19, between 2010-2015 Africa has the highest adolescent fertility in the world, which can have significant negative health and social consequences.

9— Globally, life expectancy has risen by three years since 2000, and is now 70 years. The greatest increase was in Africa, where life expectancy this millennium has grown by six years and was between the years 2010-2015 measured at 60 years—though still behind Asia (72), Latin America (75), Europe  (77) and 79 in Northern America. In 2100 Africa’s expectancy is expected to be 78 years, the largest gain of any region.

10-- Sub-Saharan Africa has seen the largest absolute declines in the numbers of children who die before their fifth birthday, from 142 t0 99 deaths per 1,000 live births, most of this fall coming since 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals took form.

11— Recent headlines have been dominated by migrant news, but with populations in high-net income countries shrinking as deaths exceed births, the UN projects that this will be countered by net migrant growth—by 2050 migration will account for 82% of population growth in developed countries, with Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean being net senders. No African country features among the current top five senders (more than 100,000 emigrations annually)—India, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan and Mexico.


Six in every ten Africans are aged under 24 years—the youngest population of any region globally. If the right policies are drawn up, this sets the continent up for a big “demographic dividend” windfall, as workers outstrip the number of dependents.

13—1n 1980, five of the leading 10 countries with the youngest populations were African. Now, all leading 10 are African, and will remain so through 2050 and 2100, with Niger, which has the continent’s highest fertility at 7.63 children per woman, consistently topping the list.

14— Africa also has the highest numbers of workers (20-64 years) per retiree (aged over 65), at 12.9 people. Japan, the country with the lowest Potential Support Ratio (PSR), has 2.1 workers per retiree, a trend consistent in the developed world and which heralds pressures on healthcare and old-age social protection systems for them.

15— Mauritius is the only country in Africa that will see its population decrease at any point before 2050, with its current 1.27 million population shrinking to 1.25 million people.

16— African countries are often called out for marginalising women, but in 10 of them— Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Uganda and Zambia the ratio of males to females is exactly 1: 1. In another 27 countries, less males are born for every 100 females. Countries with significant Muslim or Arab populations tend to have more males to females.

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