What future for Africa?
Africa should become, by the end of the century, the most populous continent with more than 4.5 billion inhabitants against 1.3 billion in 2018. In 2050, the African population will represent more than a quarter of the world population in 2100, it will be 40%.
Thus, in a century, Africa will quadruple its demographic weight when the rest of the world population will only grow by 50%. African countries will be the last to record a sharp increase in the number of their inhabitants. Indeed, by 2100, China is expected to experience a population decline of 26%. India is only expected to grow by 15%. Among Western countries, only the United States and the United Kingdom are expected to experience substantial population growth (+ 38% and 23% respectively). Germany's is expected to be down 14% as is Russia's. For Japan, the contraction would be 33%. France's population, on the other hand, could increase by 11% by 2100. Europe is expected to see its population drop by 4%.
Without Africa, the world's population would stagnate from now until the end of the century.
From underpopulation to exponential population growth
Africa has long been an underpopulated continent. Its population stagnated during the 19th century, at around 110 million, while that of Europe rose from 195 to over 420 million. The stagnation of the African population can be explained in part by the trafficking in blacks which affected 10 million people. By depriving the continent of many young people in their prime, trafficking has played a significant role in Africa's demographic change for decades.
In the coming decades, new demographic powers will emerge. Nigeria is expected to have nearly 800 million inhabitants in 2100, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nearly 400 million. Tanzania's population is estimated to be 300 million, Uganda's 215 million and Niger's 190 million. This exponential increase in population should not hide the fact that until now the African continent was underpopulated. The density is low, 41.2 inhabitants per square kilometers, less than the world average (57.4). It is significantly lower than the Chinese density (147) or that of India (445). In 2100, Africa's density will only be 152.
For some economists, the low population density, added to transport problems due to the difficulty of crossing the Sahara, explain the delay in development of the entire continent. In addition, the distance to the sea and ancestral trading routes are factors to be considered.
African demographic growth is based on the vitality of fertility, the rate of which is 4.7 children per woman (1.8 in France). This rate has started to fall but remains above the world average (2.5). In 1960, it was 6.7. The slow decline in fertility is linked to a more difficult acceptance than in Asia and the West of contraceptives. The weight of religions, the low level of education, the insufficiency of the medical network, national or sub-national rivalries explain this African specificity. The increase in population is also attributable, as had been the case in Europe at the end of the 18th century, to the decline in infant mortality. Life expectancy has increased from 42 to 62 years in twenty years.
The challenge of urbanization
Africa is the least urbanized continent. 41% of the population lives in cities when the global average rate is over 50% and it is over 75% in advanced countries. In 1960, Africa had three cities of over one million inhabitants. This number rose to 54 in 2015 and could reach 100 in 2030. Lagos in Nigeria is expected to see its population increase from 17 to 24 million from 2018 to 2030. Abidjan, in Côte d'Ivoire is expected to reach nearly 8 million inhabitants against 5 million currently. This galloping urbanization is characterized by the development of slums. The latter concentrate 75% of the urban population in Ethiopia. The creation of these metropolises involves very important and destabilizing migrations for the States concerned. It generates significant pollution, water, air, waste. Cities are responsible for 70% of CO2 emissions.
The unknown of growth
The sharp increase in the African population requires a high rate of growth simply to maintain the standard of living of the inhabitants. The African labor force is expected to increase by 1.2 billion people by 2050 when it will decline by 57 million in Europe. To limit migration, the African economy will need to create more than 40 million jobs per year. More than 41% of the sub-Saharan population live on less than $ 1.9 a day, which characterizes extreme poverty. By 2030, 9 out of 10 people living in extreme poverty will reside in Africa. Currently, 55% of the world's poor (less than $ 5 a day) are Africans. Of the 27 poorest countries in the world, 26 are in Africa. To reverse this situation, Africa's average growth would need to be 8% in the coming years. Today, it is at best between 3 and 5%. The African continent's GDP is $ 2,251 billion (for comparison, that of France is $ 2,600 billion). The GDP per capita is 1,848 dollars, which is 20% lower than that of the Chinese. It is twenty times lower than that of the French ($ 38,500 in 2017). The differences are very large from state to state and within African states. Thus, the GDP per capita in Mauritius is 10,500 dollars in 2017 against 320 dollars in Burundi. The median GDP is $ 1,050 for the entire African continent. Given demographic change and the pace of growth, Africa's ability to catch up is low unless it radically changes its economic model. Hope rests on the emergence of a middle class and on raising the level of education.
In search of the African middle class
Estimates of the African middle class vary from institute to institute. Thus, the African Development Bank estimates this middle class at 350 million inhabitants when the World Bank uses a figure of 140 million. Credit Suisse estimates it would not exceed 20 million people. However, creating a self-sustaining growth cycle requires a sizeable middle class. It must exceed a quarter of the population to be able to play its leading role. However, it is only 14 of 20% in North Africa, South Africa, and the Republic of Congo. It is around 15% in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, or Kenya.
Migration at the heart of the African problem
70% of African migrants stay in Africa, 15% go to Europe and the rest to other continents. This rate has tended to decline in recent years. Given the changing demographics, the countries of the Sahel are the most affected by population movements. By the end of the century, some 40 million people could leave this region. Currently, migrants are opting for South and North Africa as well as some high-growth states at the risk of causing unrest. Ethnic struggles are very often social conflicts or conflicts of poverty. The arrival of migrants from the same region creates reactions that can be violent. Contrary to popular belief, migrants do not belong to the poorest categories, nor the least well trained. To leave your country, it is necessary to have some means and to have some skills as well as the will to overcome many obstacles. The increase in household resources in Africa should therefore lead to that of migration. According to American geographer Wilbur Zelinsky, there is an inverted “U” relationship between migration and development. In fact, sub-Saharan Africa emigrates little because of the severe poverty there. If the economic and social situation improves, an increase in flows is to be expected. For economist Thu Hien Dao, emigration increases within a population when annual per capita income exceeds $ 6,000. Currently, in sub-Saharan Africa, it is only $ 1,500.
What future for Africa?
The ability to manage population flows will be a major issue for the next thirty years, both for African countries and for those of Europe. Development aid has shown its limits for years. Over the past fifty years, Africa has received $ 1 trillion with little in the way of expected results. Aid which represents 15% of African GDP has been diverted from its objectives for many experts like the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo. For others, it is the decline in aid since the 2008 crisis that is contributing to the growing problems in Africa. African states are experiencing the worst difficulties in building the infrastructure necessary for the development of their economy. The poverty rate has not declined for some time. It is, on average, more than 35%. A majority of states are handicapped by the weakness of their financial system. Households are poorly banked. Funding for investments cannot be done efficiently. To promote self-sustaining growth, the creation of free trade zones in Africa is highlighted. These zones would promote trade and competition. They would make it possible to structure the economies. The objective of less dependence on commodity prices is a priority to bring about so-called more inclusive growth. It also requires some progress in governance to fight corruption and inequalities.