The African Bulge

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Africa’s rapid population growth at a time when many other regions, notably developing Asia are experiencing a population growth decline, presents an unprecedented investment opportunity.

The fastest billion

Sub-Sharan Africa will be home to 1.5 billion people by 2025 and 2.1 billion by 2050, trebling from its estimated 371 million in 1980 to the current estimate of close to 1.0 billion. The top 10 countries that are contributing to the increase are across the continent are Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, the Sudan, South Africa and Algeria. Together, those 10 countries accounted for 61% of Africa’s overall population increase during the period 1980-2015.

Top 10 contributors to population increases in Africa between 1980-2015 (average annual increment in thousands)

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Very young, but getting older

It is not news that Africa has a young age structure, with about two thirds its population in the child and youth category. More interestingly though, is the growth in the active working age population (25-64 years) which has grown more rapidly than any other age group, from 123.7 million (33.3%) in 1980 to 425.7 million (36.2%) in 2015.  

Demographic shifts - age categories as a percentage of the total Sub-Sahara Africa population between 1950 and 2100

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Demographic trends vary between countries. Some countries are highly populated, including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania. 

The double bulge

Africa’s baby boomers of the 1970's 1980’s posted some impressive statistics. The average population growth rate in their period was approximately 3%. Interestingly, during the 1970s and 1980s, Kenya recorded the highest rate of population growth ever recorded in human history, with the total population rising from about 10 million at independence to 15 million by 1978. 

The 1980’s African baby boomers laid the path not only for an initial population bulge, but for a second population bulge as the baby boomers are now having babies of their own.

Sub-Sahara Africa's bulging population pyramid

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The result is a second demographic bulge that could over time take Africa within striking distance of deposing Asia from its long-held perch at the top of the world’s demographic table. 

Top 10 populated countries between 1950 and 2100 (thousands)

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Projected demographic outcomes

The charts below highlight this strong population growth trend is not isolated to country, but broadly trends across the continent. The evidence is clear that the momentum laid in the past generation is sustainable in the long term. 

Percentage of population change between 1980-2015

Percentage of population change between 2016-2050

So what now?

Africa’s population and demographic has three distinct characteristics. It is long-term sustainable, it is youthful, and it is continent-wide. This has major implications for businesses operating on the continent, including a compelling basis to undertake sizeable long-term capital investments, especially in areas of capacity and geographic expansion.