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Africa’s Population Projected to Skyrocket to 4.2 Billion By 2100

Africa is at a crossroads–its population is set to double from 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion from 2015 to 2050 and will soar to 4.2 billion by 2100, according to a report released by UNICEF. These population forecasts follow the pattern of previous population expansion on the continent—Africa’s current population is five times its size in 1950.

The report predicts the population will explode despite high child mortality rates. About fifty percent of child mortality globally is attributed to Africa, which could rise to seventy percent by 2050.

One of the lead authors of the report stressed that a lack of action by African governments concerning population growth could produce massive poverty and inequality, stating “The worst thing would be if this transition was just allowed to happen because what you’re going to see is an unparalleled growth of the slum population.”

Other experts have emphasized how population growth in African countries like Nigeria is likely to outstrip the expansion rate of necessary resources, such as “jobs, national infrastructures, social services, housing, [and] health care facilities,” which “are not also growing at an equally comparable rate or at a faster rate,” leading the experts to conclude that “without commensurate amenities and employment to sustain” the country, the population explosion “would spell doom.”

Regarding environmental impacts, the report highlights that “[p]erhaps more than any other continent, African nations are set to see a multiplicity of risks from climate change.” The report emphasizes Africa’s current resource crisis, stating its “demographic expansion is likely to result in increased scarcity of vital resources, including food, water and energy. Twice the people will need at least twice the resources and probably more.” The report concludes that “[u]nless we change our approach to the environment radically, Africa’s children face an uncertain future.”

On the heels of UNICEF’s findings, the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) also released a study focusing specifically on the world’s youth population. The report found that nearly 25 percent of the global population is between the ages of 10 and 24, and that almost 90 percent of the youth population lives in “poor countries, where . . . [p]overty is the most prevalent, access to critical health care and schooling is the lowest, conflict and violence are the most frequent, and life is the hardest.”

Though the report casts this population explosion as an opportunity to realize “demographic dividends,” resulting in improved economic circumstances, particularly in sub-Saharan African countries, the report concedes that these countries would need to create opportunities in areas such as education and employment to realize these benefits. The report also highlights the low status of women in many of these countries with the highest youth populations, stating that “energetic and well-timed investments in education, health—including sexual and reproductive health—and women’s status” would be necessary to achieve these potential gains. As a result, rather than easing concerns about population growth, this report seems to invite more questions, such as where the requisite investments would come from, and how these countries will develop policies to ensure their youth’s bright futures.

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