Dawn of the 22nd Century: Estimating Africa’s Population Size
Projecting population size over the long term is tricky business.
1. If current UN projections prove true, Africa’s population could jump from 950 million today to 4.4 billion by 2100.
2. One main reason for the projected increase in Africa is that better living conditions reduce child mortality and foster longer, healthier lives.
3. Somewhat paradoxically, other improvements could actually result in keeping Africa’s population well below the 3 billion mark by century’s end.
4. According to projections at the Vienna-based Wittgenstein Center, Africa’s population may only rise to some 2.6 billion by 2100 – just 60% of the increase projected by the UN.
5. In some large countries’ – e.g. DR Congo, Tanzania, Niger, Angola and Mozambique – the Wittgenstein forecast of population growth is less than half the UN’s.
6. The actual rate of Africa’s future population growth will mostly depend on two factors that make a huge difference over generations if slightly shifted.
7. The first factor is the number of children per woman and the second is the chance of those children to survive.
8. The UN assumes that, based on recent trends observed in Africa relative to the world, fertility there will decline only slowly to 3 children per woman by 2050 — and then to 2.6 by 2070.
9. In contrast, the Wittgenstein Center assumes that Africa will follow the path of other regions’ demographic transitions.
10. Once countries urbanize and citizens become wealthier, fertility declines, everywhere.
11. The most important factor is women’s education, which is expanding across Africa.
12. Already today, an Ethiopian woman with secondary education has on average only 1.6 children, compared to a woman with no education who has 6 children.
13. Asia’s fertility declined from more than 5 children per woman during early 1970s to less than 3 children per woman in early 1990s.
14. For these reasons, it won’t be a surprise if the average African family would have only three children as soon as 2035.
15. If that assumption bears out, then Africa cannot reach 4 billion — and the world would peak this century at below 10 billion.
Editor’s note: This factsheet was adapted from The Globalist feature article “Population: How Many People Will Live in Africa in 2100?” by Samir KC of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital.