Geographies in Depth

6 numbers that prove the future is African

A Bozo fisherman casts his net from a pirogue in front of Saaya village in the Niger river inland delta February 7, 2007. The Bozo, a West African ethnic group located predominantly along the Niger River in Mali, are famous for their fishing skills and are locally occasionally referred to as the "masters of the river". Picture taken on February 7, 2007. REUTERS/Florin Iorganda   (MALI) - RTR1M4GU

Africa is growing, and the figures prove it. Image: REUTERS/Florin Iorganda

John McKenna
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By 2030 one in five people will be African. Combine the continent’s soaring population with technology, improvements in infrastructure, health and education, and Africa could be the next century’s economic growth powerhouse.

Here are just a few of the surprising facts and figures about Africa and its emerging success story.


Africa will account for more than half (54%) of the 2.4 billion global population growth in coming decades. The United Nations predicts that between 2015 and 2050, Africa will add 1.3 billion people, more than doubling its current population of 1.2 billion.


As the above graph shows, Africa’s population will continue to grow even as Asia – currently the biggest regional driver of economic growth – begins to see its explosive population growth recede.

2 billion

As part of the continent’s phenomenal population growth, UNICEF predicts that 2 billion babies will be born in Africa over the next 33 years.

Nurses take care of newly born babies at Kisenyi health centre in Uganda's capital Kampala April 10, 2015. Kisenyi health center in Kampala, which delivers 600 babies a month, symbolizes the shift in Uganda which has seen the country invest more money in the healthcare system to make it accessible for the poorest, Save the Children said. Child deaths in Kampala fell faster than in any other African city between 2006 and 2011 - despite a large influx of refugees from war-torn neighboring states, the charity said in a report. Picture taken April 10, 2015. To match HEALTH-CHILDREN/UGANDA   REUTERS/James Akena - RTX1BM27
Image: REUTERS/James Akena - RTX1BM27

High fertility and improving child survival rates mean that by 2050, 40% of under-fives and more than a third of all children under 18 will be African. In 1950, only about 10% of the world’s children were African.

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The overwhelming majority of Africans today have access to a mobile phone service, but less than two thirds have access to piped water.

According to research by Afro Barometer, mobile phone networks have grown faster than any other area of core infrastructure over the past decade, increasing by nearly a quarter.

Sewerage, on the other hand, has remained relatively stagnant, with availability growing by just 8%. Less than one third of Africans currently have access to modern wastewater systems.

Image: AFR Barometer


Improved availability of mobile services and increasing smartphone ownership have helped propel Samsung to become Africa’s number one most admired brand.

The South Korean electronics giant is joined by rival smartphone manufacturers Apple, LG and Nokia in the top 10 of Brand Africa's 2016/17 list of Most Admired Brands in Africa. Only 16 African brands made the top 100, with just two in the top 20. Again, the top two most admired African brands are mobile-related: South Africa’s MTN and Nigeria’s Globacom (GLO). Both mobile service providers operate in multiple African nations.


In 11 African countries, women hold close to one-third of parliamentary seats. This is more than in Europe. Rwanda, where women have 64% of seats in the lower house, has the highest proportion of women parliamentarians worldwide.

Not only do African countries have governments with high female representation, they also have plenty of women entrepreneurs: African women own one third of all businesses across Africa.

$105 billion

While African women are entrepreneurial, the overwhelming majority are paid less than their male colleagues.

Research by the UN shows that African women hold two thirds of all jobs in the non-agricultural informal sector, and on average only make 70 cents for each dollar made by men.

The UN estimates that discriminatory gender policies in sub-Saharan Africa cost the region up to $105 billion each year, or 6% of its GDP.

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Geographies in DepthEconomic Growth
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