A recent report by the United Nations Population Division provides worldwide population projections for the 22nd century, including statistics for countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The 100-year prediction shows Africa’s population eventually matching that of Asia’s by the year 2100, reaching approximately four billion people.
The U.N. report was broken down in detail by Max Fisher in a comprehensive article in the Washington Post last week. Fisher stated:
Africa will see a population explosion nearly unprecedented in human history…there will [be] four times the workforce, four times the resource burden, four times as many voters. The rapid growth itself will likely transform political and social dynamics within African countries and thus their relationship with the rest of the world.
Economists caution that a swell in the African youth population will continue to cause both economic and political instability. Combining what the report terms a “youth bulge” with the struggle of international and African investors to gain control of vital natural resources has experts concerned that internal and regional conflicts will rise to new levels. Fighting over oil in Sudan and South Sudan, along with extreme violence surrounding the extraction of minerals from eastern Congo, and the illegal smuggling of wildlife parts by Joseph Kony’s LRA are examples of conflicts that will directly affect the youth population. The lack of good governance and regional cooperation may cause more young men to be recruited to fight for armies and militias; making young women more likely to be the targets of sexual violence. This combination will only further exacerbate the extreme poverty they already face.
There is much debate on the effects this projected population spike could have on the African continent. While the level of impact is uncertain, future generations of African youth will bear the fruit of the opportunities and the burden of risks that lie ahead.
Photo: Ghanaian citizens greet President Obama on the President's Africa Tour (AP).