….Africa is still something of a demographic outlier compared with the rest of the developing world. Long berated (or loved) as the sleepiest continent, it has now become the fastest-growing and fastest-urbanising one. Its population has grown from 110m in 1850 to 1 billion today. Its fertility rate is still high: the average woman born today can expect to have five children in her child-bearing years, compared with just 1.7 in East Asia. Barring catastrophe, Africa’s population will reach 2 billion by 2050. To get a sense of this kind of increase, consider that in 1950 there were two Europeans for every African; by 2050, on present trends, there will be two Africans for every European (see chart 1).
…One African in two is a child. The numbers are such that traditional ways of caring for children in extended families and communities are breaking down…
…Africa’s rate of urbanisation is the fastest the world has ever seen, says Anna Tibaijuka, the head of Habitat, the UN agency responsible for urban development. In 1950 only Alexandria and Cairo exceeded 1m people. When the city rush is done, Africa may have 80 cities with more than 1m people, plus a cluster of megacities headed by Kinshasa, Lagos and Cairo—none of which show signs of mass starvation. Intermediary towns of 50,000-100,000 people will soak up most of those coming from the countryside. Urbanisation is part of the solution to Africa’s demographic problems, not a manifestation of them.Will the next generation be better off?
Indeed, it is an open question whether demography should really be considered an African problem—or one of its advantages. Over the past year, the continent has had the fastest economic growth per person in the world, partly because it has been somewhat less affected by the collapse of world trade, but partly because of the small increases countries are seeing in the number of people of working age…
For one of the best weekly roundups of links on Africa, check out Texas in Africa. For example, here are a few of her links from this week:
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells us “What [She] Saw in Goma.”
- A very interesting question: is Mandela’s incredible legacy somehow holding back South Africa’s political development?
- Colonialism returns to the Caribbean.
- Advice all aid workers need that no one will provide.
- Are you reading the newish Aid Thoughts blog? If you’re at all interested in international development, you should be.