Africa's population to explode to 2bn by 2050, accelerate pace of economic growth
6 October 2011

Sub-Saharan Africa's population is expected to hit the 2-billion mark in the next four decades, which will result in more than a fifth of the world population being African, according to Standard Bank Group (SBG) research analyst Simon Freemantle. 

Writing in the first of a series of reports aimed at unpacking what he views as the five most prominent trends driving Africa's on-going economic and commercial reinvigoration, Mr Freemantle says Africa's population will become much younger and more affluent. 

This major demographic shift, he says, provides an array of opportunities and challenges and the continent's economic growth prospects will depend on how it leverages the advantages. 

He notes that population growth for the next decade will average 2,2%, compared to 0,9% in Asia. By 2050 Africa's population will have grown by about 800-million to almost 2-billion. This rapid growth means Africa's population is also exceptionally young. 

Mr Freemantle notes that at present Africa's median age is 19.7 (18.6 for Sub-Saharan Africa), compared to 32 for the BRIC nations. Overall, out of 100 Nigerians, 55 are under 20 years-old. 

"Two prominent opportunities result from this seismic shift. First, when coupled with robust economic growth, population growth will support the emergence of the continent's consumer base - providing support to local firms, creating economic opportunities, and inspiring foreign investment. 

"Second, for countries able to provide the necessary institutional support, a youthful and rising population has the potential to yield a demographic dividend, which, if leveraged, will inspire new relevance to Africa's services and manufacturing sectors - fundamentally altering the prospects of select economies on the continent," writes Mr Freemantle. 

"Effective usage of these shifts and the concomitant bulging of a more productive workforce, will in turn provide profound support to economic growth. Africa's rising population and positive growth momentum will be an ever important determinant of the nature, scale and importance of the continent's constantly reconfiguring global role." 

However, he cautions that there is nothing certain about the realisation of the demographic dividend, because there must be a number of preconditions in place for countries to reap the advantages of youthful and growing populations. 

"Institutions must be strong, or at least improving, and education levels and healthcare elevated. Political and economic freedoms must also be supportive. As such, many African countries fall short, though some are favourably positioned to elevate attractiveness as global manufacturing and services locations - particularly in light of rising costs in China. Overall, North African countries, particularly Egypt and Morocco, rank favourably on most metrics, with countries such as Ghana, Mauritius, Senegal and South Africa also displaying structural potential," he says. 

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