In 100 years the world’s largest cities will be in Africa, says the Global Cities Institute. Lagos in Nigeria will be the largest city in the world with 88.3 million people. Kinshasa in DRC will be the next biggest with 83.5 million people. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania will be the third largest with 73.7 million people.
The growth of Africa’s cities is due to urbanization. More than 70% of Africans are under 30. But often there are little or no job prospects in rural areas, so people move to cities in search of work. This leaves Africa with a huge infrastructure challenge. According to the World Economic Forum, Africa’s population will likely grow to more than 2 billion by 2050, and more than 80% of that increase will occur in cities.
Whereas growth in other populous regions, such as Europe, China and the Americas, has stalled in recent years, in Africa and the Middle East the numbers continue to increase at a rapid rate.
To put this in perspective, Africa’s population is expected to double to 2 billion by 2050. By 2100 its population could easily have doubled again. If that happens, at least four billion of the world’s 11 billion people will be African.
This unprecedented growth is largely due to the fact that infant mortality rates are down significantly and life expectancy has improved. Birth rates remain high at about five children per woman.
Challenges and opportunities
There are pros and cons associated with population growth. Some are more obvious than others.
The global population has more than tripled since the UN was created in 1945. The main knock-on effect of this is the substantially increased demand on shared resources.
Environmental problems – from climate change to species loss to overzealous resource extraction – are either caused or exacerbated by population growth. Then there are the less obvious side effects to consider: Air traffic volumes are forecast to double within the next 20 years.
In certain parts of the world, ageing populations are putting a strain on healthcare capacity and economic growth. China, a country that for decades has enforced a one-child-only policy, is now exploring financial incentives for couples who have a second child.
Yet there are also myriad opportunities for communities and companies to stand out from the rapidly-growing crowd.
In the Middle East, a larger youth population has coincided with greater social empowerment. Women often married young and rarely worked outside the home. Now, more girls are attending school and more women are entering the labour force. Couples are waiting longer to marry and are having fewer children.
Meanwhile, the challenges created by a burgeoning population will provide compelling investment opportunities for socially-engaged organizations.
Do you think the growth of Africa will define the 21st century?