Friday, June 23, 2017

Africa's Population Growth

I listened to a podcast from the London School of Economics last week about the end of globalisation. However, what really caught my attention in the talk from Stephen King, senior economist at HSBC, was the level of population growth in Africa. This prompted me to look at the data.

According to the UN's 2015 projections the median world population projection scenario in 2050 is as follows:
By 2050 the population of Africa will increase by an estimated 1.3bn. This is far higher than other continents and is due to higher fertility rates (average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime) as we can see below from the CIA's 2015 world factbook data.

Life expectancy in Africa has increased from 36 to 57 years of age since 1950. At the same time birth rates in Africa have not fallen as fast as experts anticipated. In Niger the average number of children a woman is likely to have in her life is still more than seven. The country’s current population of 21 million is projected to grow to 72 million by 2050. It is forecast to continue growing by 800,000 people every 18 weeks to over 200m by 2100.

This population growth creates many different challenges. Stephen King talked about potentially high levels of migration to more developed countries when populations grow. The UN projects the net number of international migrants to more developed regions during 2005–2050 to be 98 million. However, in these more developed regions deaths are projected to exceed births by 73 million in the same time period.

Thus the overall population numbers in the developed world may not rise significantly, but there are likely to be large changes in the make up of populations.

The big challenges will be in Africa itself as rapid population growth puts pressure on infrastructure, housing, health and education. However, Africa also has the potential to be an economic powerhouse through access to education, investment and good governance. Optimistic economists believe the continent is going to benefit from a “demographic dividend”, a rapid increase in economic growth which often occurs when the number of people employed is significantly higher than the number of children and old people.