Africa’s population to double to 2.4 billion by 2050
Africa’s population will more than double to 2.4 billion within 40 years, according to a major study, thanks in large part to better health care.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is rising faster than the rest of the world because modern medicine and health care on the continent means more babies are surviving birth complications, and fewer adults are dying from preventable diseases.
But the number of children being born is not dropping, or is doing so very slowly.
“This means that population growth rates would naturally rise if birth rates stay as they are,” said Carl Haub, the co-author of the report, from the Population Reference Bureau in the US.
African mothers have an average of 5.2 children, rising to 7.6 in Niger, the country with the world’s highest fertility rate that is close to five times the European average of 1.6 children born to each woman.
The baby boom means that its current population of 1.1 billion will increase to at least 2.4 billion by the middle of the century, according to the study from the respected organisation.
Children pose for a camera in the Erasmia township, Johannesburg, South Africa
“Nearly all of that growth will be in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the region’s poorest,” said Wendy Baldwin, the organisation’s president.
“Rapid population growth makes it difficult for economies to create enough jobs to lift large numbers of people out of poverty.”
Seven of the 10 countries with the highest fertility rates also appear among the bottom 10 listed on the United Nations’ Human Development Index.
By 2050, many African countries will have more than twice the number of people compared to today. Kenya’s population will rise from 44 million to 97 million and Nigeria’s from 174 million to 440 million.
Some will nearly triple. Somalia will have 27 million people in 2050, up from an estimated 10 million today, and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 71 million population is predicted to rise to 182 million.
“This is clearly going to increase pressure on Africa’s governments to deliver education, health care, security and, most importantly jobs,” said Julia Schünemann, director of the Africa Futures Project at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.
“But it should be seen as an opportunity, too. African countries also have the world’s fastest economic growth rates. The question is, can those economies grow fast enough to offset the demands of population growth.
“In general, I don’t think we should be too pessimistic.”
International aid agencies are increasingly focusing efforts in Africa on family planning by advising governments how to widen access to contraceptives and helping women choose when to have children.
But this is unpopular in some countries, especially where religious doctrine that frowns on contraception holds sway with government leaders.
Projections included in the Population Reference Bureau’s study assume that “family planning will become widespread”, said Mr Haub.
“If not, Africa’s population will grow more rapidly, further constraining efforts to address poverty, create jobs, and protect the environment,” he said.
Africa’s rising middle class would contribute to a slowing of birth rates, as wealthier families tend to choose to have fewer children, the study found.
The report gives 20 different indicators for more than 200 countries.
It found that British mothers give birth to an average of two children, higher than the EU average of 1.6. Bosnia-Herzegovina has the world’s lowest birth rate of 1.2 children.
The world’s population is forecast to increase from roughly 7.1 billion today to more than 9.7 billion in 2050, the report calculated.
India, currently the second most populous country in the world, will overtake China to become the most populous by 2030, it is estimated. By 2050, India’s population will be 1.6 billion and China’s 1.3 billion.
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