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Changing the Africa Population Narrative

Africa’s emerging youth bulge presents more opportunities than risks. If governments and businesses train young people well and create sufficient opportunities for them to drive endogenous growth, the continent stands to reap a huge demographic dividend.

CAIRO – Economic policy debates about Africa are too often clouded by calls for population control and lower fertility rates. And the United Nations is fueling the problem by projecting that Africa’s population will double by 2050. In fact, Africa’s overall fertility rate has fallen by more than 36% since 1970 to 4.2 births per woman, and is projected to decline to 2.1 births per woman later this century.

Moreover, it is disturbing that so many commentators advocate population control for a region whose population was decimated by centuries of slavery and colonization. Partly as a result of that legacy, Africa has the lowest population density of any region, at 46 people per square kilometer, compared to 150 people per square kilometer in Asia and 112 in Europe.

A far more salient statistic is that Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with more than 70% of its population aged under 30. Harnessing the potential of this youth cohort is both a key challenge and an enormous opportunity.

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