Monday, November 28, 2022

The World Needs Africans

 In most industrial countries, including Japan, South Korea and all EU member states, the fertility rate is currently not reaching the replacement level, which is about 2.1 births per woman of childbearing age. That means that not enough babies are being born to replace deaths and consequently, in future, the local workforce will not be large enough to take up the jobs of those retiring. Societies in high-income countries are projected to get older over the next three to four decades. By 2050, one-in-four people living in Europe and North America will be aged 65 or over, but more than half of Africans will be under the age of 25.

Africa, on the other hand, seems to be going in the opposite direction. The sub-Saharan region has the world's highest average fertility rate at 4.6, with Niger topping the list at 6.8 children per woman, followed by Somalia at 6. Congo, Mali and Chad each have fertility rates of over 5. 

According to UN projections, the number of Africans will double by 2050 and make up a quarter of the world's population.

"When compared to its past, early 20th century, for example, Africa's population growth is not accelerating, it is actually slowing down, just like the rest of the world," Hippolyte Fofack, chief economist at the African Export-Import Bank, told DW. "What we see is mainly a fast decline in developed nations' population growth rate, with child mortality rates plummeting in Africa." 

African societies are not only growing fast, they are also much younger than almost any other region. While the median age in Europe is 42.5, in Africa the figure stands as low as 18.

Does Africa have enough capacity for a population surge?

According to Hippolyte Fofack, the continent has enough land and resources to host a population that is much larger. Africa, one of the world's largest continents, has plenty of habitable land for its booming population. According to the UN, the continent is home to about 30% of the world's mineral reserves, 12% of the world's oil and 8% of the natural gas reserves. Some  60% of the world’s arable lands are located in AfricaThe world's economy is already dependent on Africa, mainly for its abundant resources, but the continent's share of global trade remains low at just 3%.

At the moment, population density is between 45 to 47 people per square kilometer in Africa, as opposed to 117 for Europe and about 150 for Asia. 

"Africa needs this demographic enlargement for its development," Blessing Mberu, senior researcher at the Kenya-based African Population and Health Research Center, explained. "Factories, highways, technologies and infrastructures are not going to emerge all by themselves! Someone needs to build them, manage them and use them." 

He added, "The potential for a larger population is there. But the challenge is to provide education and jobs for them."

 Mberu continued, "Right now, we are seeing an uneven development across the African nations," he continued. "In some places, investments in education, health care and the economy have been concentrated in urban areas. This is why there is an influx of migration from rural areas to cities, creating huge slums, which are becoming a permanent feature of those cities." 

Even if local governments fail to provide enough jobs for all, a proportion of the continent's population will have the option to emigrate elsewhere, to countries with a drastic need for a younger workforce, Fofack said. "This process has already started for decades, and some countries outside Africa have avoided a demographic downturn thanks to migrants," he added.

Africa's population boom may boost economy, global relevance – DW – 11/27/2022

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