The impacts of Africa’s youth boom

Want to feel old? The median age in Africa is just shy of 19. 

Driving the news: In most of the world, anxieties about how countries will care and pay for their fast-ageing populations are growing. Africa is the exception: The continent is seeing a baby boom that is fuelling one of the youngest and fastest-growing populations on Earth. 

  • According to United Nations forecasts, African people will account for one in four people on the planet by 2050, and at least one-third of people aged 15 to 24. 

Why it matters: By 2050, the population of people aged 60 years and older around the world is expected to double to 2.1 billion, according to the World Health Organization. As the population grows older, it presents a huge set of health, social, and economic challenges. 

  • According to the most recent census, nearly 1 in 5 Canadians are 65 and older right now, requiring a solid tax base of young workers to support pensions and healthcare.  

Yes, but: Population growth is bringing a different set of challenges to Africa. In Nigeria, most of the country’s 213 million people live on less than $2 a day. In Somalia, unemployed youths join militant groups for money. In South Africa, the unemployment rate is 35%.

  • While technology has helped lift millions out of poverty, it has failed to create enough jobs for young people. In 2020 alone, nearly 41 million people left the continent.

  • Plus, with a life expectancy of 64, many Africans are considered lucky even to make it to retirement age. In Canada, where life expectancy is 82, most people do. 

Big picture: Similar to how the economic rise of China and India stunned the world in the 21st century, the next shift will be shaped by Africa, where youths are better educated and connected than ever, and politiciansCEOsdesigners and artists are all on the up.—SB