Skip to main content

A billion Africans and growing

© Trevor Samson/Banque Mondiale

In 1950, one in 10 inhabitants of the planet was African; today, the proportion is one in seven. Studies predict that in 2050 one in five inhabitants of the planet will be African. Despite disease and war, the continent continues to show a vibrant population growth and reached the one billion mark in 2009.


Demographic records show that Africa has population growth of three per cent, has an average of about 4.6 children per family and uses less contraception than other continents.

Around 40 per cent of its population is younger than 15.

In the past, African customs and beliefs encouraged families to have lots of children. Today the number of children per family has dropped slightly, with the average family having one child less in countries like Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa. These are countries with birth control campaigns, more urbanization and more girls enrolled in schools.

In countries hit by civil war, the number of children per family remains high: the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia have averages of around six children per family.

In any other circumstances these figures would contribute to the economic development of the country. But in these war-torn countries, total population growth includes a high number of combat-related deaths.



• 56% of Ugandans are under 18
• Nigeria has 6 million babies, the European Union has 5 million
• Tunisia's average is 1.8 children per woman, Algeria's is 2.3
• Niger's average is 7 children per woman
• Congo's statistics are the same as in 1950
• Africa's population is estimated at 43 to 78 million people in 1500

To sustain their increasing populations, African countries will need an annual economic growth rate of between six and eight per cent over a period of ten years. But growth is currently only at three per cent. 

The International Labor Organization estimated unemployment in 2009 at almost eight per cent - rising to ten percent in North Africa.

Africa has shown considerable growth in the last fifteen years thanks to mobile technology which has opened the continent up to the rest of the world and restructured the way people do business. This is contributing to a growing, prosperous middle class in several countries.

The hosting of the football World Cup by South Africa, in June this year, demonstrates a confidence in the future of Africa and is reassuring both overseas investors and Africans. But globalization of the Africa economy has brought problems like migration  from rural to urban areas. This increases the wealth gap in the population.

And farmers are going to have a difficult time feeding one billion Africans. The agriculture sector grew from 2.5 per cent in 2000 to almost four per cent in 2005; this was mainly due to the expansion of farming land. But agriculture is meeting difficulties because of the increase in population.

Another issue Africa will have to tackle is urbanization. In 1950, Alexandria and Cairo were the only cities with more than one million inhabitants but now there are around 80 cities of this size.

Life expectancy in Africa is currently at 53 years (43 years in the Kwazulu-Natal province of South Africa). Poor conditions are exacerbated by lack of proper sanitation, poor health care and an education system that is unable to support demand. More than half of the 2.5 million people living in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, live in slums.

And the financial crisis might not have affected sub-Saharan Africa in the same way as Western states, but it has left African governments’ development programs looking more fragile.

Daily news briefReceive essential international news every morning

Page not found

The content you requested does not exist or is not available anymore.