The Century of Africa

During the remaining 80 years of this century Africa’s population will more than triple to around 4.3 billion. (Source: United Nations, Population Division)

Also from the above:
– Asia’s population will remain relatively constant at around 4.5 billion.
– The Americas will grow relatively slightly and Europe will decrease relatively slightly in population.
– Together, Africa and Asia in 2100 will contain over 80% of the world’s population.
– In 2100 the world will contain almost 11 Billion people.

Here are 12 of the 54 countries in Africa which will, in year 2100, have populations of at least 100 millions, which in the aggregate will contain 2/3  of the population:
It boggles my mind that these countries may achieve such populations between now and 80 years hence. Assuming the United Nations will find that their projections are substantially correct, I wonder about the ability of these countries, even with imports from other continents, to continue to feed the people. I wonder about the effects on the environment, the availability of potable water, effective sewerage and refuse disposal, and so forth.

The projected population increases, for all 54 countries, range from near zero to almost 600%. Exactly half (27) of the countries will at least double in population:
For comparison, the United States grew, in the 80 years from 1920 to 2000, from around 106 Million to over 291 Million, an increase of 175%. However, the 48 contiguous USA states are much larger than any African country, the three largest being, in order, Algeria (30% of the area of the 48 U.S. states), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (29%), and Sudan (23%)– going down to number 14 in this list to Nigeria, which has an area 11% of that of the 48 US states. And, Nigeria is expected to have 733 Million people by year 2100.

So, again, if these population projections will prove to be substantially correct, African nations will need help to build their infrastructure and to develop better governance.

About better governance

Eight years ago I wrote an article: What Went Wrong with Africa? after attending a colloquium at The Swedish Institute of International Affairs.  Professor Roel van der Veen of the University of Amsterdam told us that…

… when current African countries gained their independence from European colonial powers the existing elites were purged or they left the country. A new elite replaced them which are different from the elites of developing countries. These are local chiefs and other leaders from the local level, not all of whom had similar interests, other than to retain local power. This makes the state a fragile entity because these elites do not have the concept of a state foremost in their interests.

To satisfy the elites the government subsidizes their basic needs, especially food. The state government, as a monopsony,  buys the agricultural produce from the farmers at below world-market prices and sells it to the elites at a profit, but still at below world market prices. Over time, the farmers are discouraged and some number of them migrates in one of two directions: toward the city, or toward more remote areas to return to subsistence farming. Thus, the agricultural base of the nation-state is reduced and, concomitantly, its wealth.

Mohammed Ibrahim

Enter Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim , a Sudanese-British billionaire businessman. He worked for several telecommunications companies, before founding Celtel, which when sold had over 24 million mobile phone subscribers in 14 African countries. After selling Celtel in 2005 for $3.4 billion, he set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa, as well as creating the Mo Ibrahim Index, to evaluate nations’ performance. In 2007 he initiated the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which awards a $5 million initial payment, and a $200,000 annual payment for life to African heads of state who deliver security, health, education and economic development to their constituents and democratically transfer power to their successors. Ibrahim has pledged to give at least half of his wealth to charity by joining The Giving Pledge.

The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is awarded to a former Executive Head of State or Government by an independent Prize Committee composed of eminent figures, including two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. The Prize recognises and celebrates African leaders who have developed their countries, lifted people out of poverty and paved the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity, and highlights exceptional role models for the continent. With a $5 million initial payment, plus $200,000 a year for life, the Prize is believed to be the world’s largest. (Wikipedia)

In 2007 the inaugural Prize was awarded to former president Joaquim Chissano  of Mozambique, for “his role in leading Mozambique from conflict to peace and democracy.

In 2008 Festus Mogae, former leader of Botswana, won the Prize. “President Mogae’s outstanding leadership has ensured Botswana’s continued stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/AIDS pandemic, which threatened the future of his country and people.”

In 2009 the Prize Committee did not select a winner. The controversial decision came following the consideration of “credible candidates” and was interpreted by many as a laudable act in establishing a standard of credibility for the Prize.

In 2010 the Prize Committee decided not to award the prize.

In 2011 the Prize was awarded to Pedro Pires, former president of Cape Verde.

In 2014 the Prize was awarded to Hifikepunye Pohamba, former president of Namibia,: “During the decade of  (his) Presidency, Namibia’s reputation has been cemented as a well-governed, stable and inclusive democracy with strong media freedom and respect for human rights.

In 2017 the Prize was awarded to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia: “In very difficult circumstances, she helped guide her nation towards a peaceful and democratic future, paving the way for her successor to follow.”

As one can see, there have been five awards in the 13 years of this prize, to date through 2019 (leaving time, still, for a prize to be possibly awarded for year 2020).

Therefore, I reiterate: African nations, especially in light of their enormous population increases over the next 80 years, need help with their governance, which will be necessary to lead toward more effective development of their infrastructure.

Enter China
On May 4, 2019, Panos Mourdoukoutas wrote for What China Wants From Africa? Everything.

China wants everything from Africa: its strategic location, its oil, its rare earth metals, and its fish, leaving African nations indebted to Beijing. In its long history, Africa has served the global ambitions of many foreigners. Foreigners have reached out to Africa as missionaries, financiers, and infrastructure builders. They have promised to place the continent on the globalization map and help its people grow out of poverty. But they ended up grabbing Africa’s riches, colonizing one nation after another, and letting their people steep in poverty. That may end up being the case again, with China’s recent infrastructure investment projects in the continent.

On the surface, these projects seem to serve the quest of African nations to build a sound infrastructure. But on closer examination, they serve China’s ambitions to write the rules of the next stage of globalization.  China wants to use Africa as a location to secure maritime roads that facilitate Chinese exports, as evidenced by Beijing’s large military presence in Djibouti.

Then there are Africa’s resources, oil, rare earth metals, and fish. “As a South African, I’ve seen China’s activities on the continent up close,” says Ted Bauman, Senior Research Analyst at Banyan Hill Publishing. “It’s clear that China’s primary goal with foreign investment is geopolitical, not economic. The most consequential investments are undertaken by state owned companies, not by Chinese private capital. They tend to focus on infrastructure like highways, ports and dams, and on public networks like the electrical grid.” (My emphasis)

That’s something many African countries desperately need in their bid to develop their economies. The trouble is that “these investments help to bind countries to China politically, and through debt obligations,” explains Bauman. “It creates a form of leverage that China can use to force these countries to support Chinese ambitions globally. In some cases, such as the Angolan oil sector or Congolese rare earth mining, Chinese investment helps to lock-in supply relationships with essential commodities.”

It seems clear that China (and to a lesser degree, Brazil and Russia, not discussed here) has seen into this future and has taken action on its own behalf well before other nations (esp. EU and USA) have effectively engaged with Africa for their economic and strategic interests.

Further Reading

Mo Ibrahim Foundation 2020 Report, Executive Summary

What China Is Really Up To In Africa

U.S. Worries About Russian and Chinese Influence in Africa

China expands influence in Africa as US plays catch-up

China in Africa: Implications of a Deepening Relationship

China Militarizes Its Influence in Africa

How the Biden Administration can Respond to China’s Influence in Africa | Opinion

About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate American living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
This entry was posted in Africa, China, Nigeria, United Nations and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Century of Africa

  1. Nat Brown says:

    Ron – thanks, an important piece on the rise of Africa; but I don’t see Ghana (Republic of Ghana) in your displays – one if the more stable and economically growing African countries, with a population of about 31 million.


    Sent from my iPhone



    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Hello Nat, Thanks for reading and commenting. I didn’t show Ghana in my presentation because it wasn’t among those countries where the population increase was predicted to be 200% or greater, nor with a population, in year 2100, to be 100 Million or greater. If you go to page 9 (link below) of the Executive Summary of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for the decade ending 2019, you will see that Ghana “Improved in Foundations for Economic Opportunity and Human Development” and declined in “Security & Rule of Law and Participation, Rights & Inclusion”. I have no opinion, just reading the report.


  2. John P Stathoulis says:

    Thought provoking piece with frightening statistics, thank you Ron.

    You are right to wonder about ‘…availability of potable water, effective sewerage and refuse disposal…’. There are shortages/inadequacies even at current population levels.

    Some links to articles dealing with pit latrines in schools in South Africa (my country of birth and home): In 2014 a five-year-old boy drowned in a pit latrine at his school. There was an outcry and the State undertook to eradicate pit latrines. Four years later (2018) tragedy struck again when another after a five-year-old child drowned in similar circumstances. Again, the State pledged to eradicate pit latrines, this time within two years. . To date they have made limited progress, perhaps the greatest achievement being that they now have a register of the pit latrines so they know the magnitude of the task.

    As you correctly point out, governance is a key ingredient to guard against corruption in the provision of infrastructure. But Africa also requires capacity, capability and an ethos at an individual and institutional level to facilitate the building and maintenance of infrastructure. Our track record is not encouraging.


  3. Vasil Georgiev says:

    Hi Ron,Thank you for your very interesting article about Africa. I have found a lot of useful data and in particular for the geopolitical interests of China in Africa. Congratulations for the article. Best, Vasil


  4. Eric Gandy says:

    Population figures can be fascinating, but leave me often with the feeling: so what? One way is to develope the figures to reflect, for example, the realtive carbon/climate footprint of different countries. For example, Malawi has about 10 million inhabitants who have a median footprint index of say 2. The corresponding index for Sweden, also about 10 million inhabitants is say 30. So the footprint adjusted population of Malawi is 20 million, while that of Sweden would be 300 million. Where is the population a problem?
    Such an index could be further developed to reflect urban/rural population – where the trend in Africa has shifted towards cities where the footprint may be higher.


    • Ron Pavellas says:

      I wasn’t addressing, or at least thinking about, the possible effects on climate due to the increase in population. I was thinking about how to provide infrastructure to accommodate up to 500%+ increase in population (as in Nigeria) and to provide food, water and deal with the detritus of over 4 Billion people. Asia will have approx. the same pop. as Africa in 2100 (according to the U.N.); Asia has 50% more land area than Africa (both continents have their uninhabitable deserts and mountains). I wonder how the statistical projections can ever come about. My gut tells me that something will happen in the world to make the eventual outcome significantly lower, or different.


      • Bud Bromley says:

        “detritus” ? No sir. No offense Ron. The next baby could be the next Mozart, Goethe, Jesus, David, Leonardo. The Malthusian narrative is a failure, God-less.

        The great banks and nations today are and have been denying the resources necessary for Africa, the middle east and India to succeed.

        Genesis 1:28
        And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

        Deuteronomy 18:10-11
        There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, [think abortion] anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead,

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ron Pavellas says:

        No offence taken, since I wasn’t referring to babies in the word ‘detritus’, nor would I ever. I was thinking about garbage, refuse and sewage. See here:


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