The children’s continent: keeping up with Africa’s growth

africa children

(Bill Wegener, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Bandar Hajjar, President, Islamic Development Bank


  • By 2050 two in every five children will be born in Africa.
  • Urban population expected to triple.
  • ‘Smart’ cities are developing but planners need to be prepared.

The world’s population is growing, but it is in Africa where this challenge is particularly acute. We know Africa as the place where human life began – a place with an ancient and noble history, but today it is also a place that is becoming home to more children than any other place on earth. Already, 77% of the population is below the age of 35.

For many decades the enormous populations of South America, Europe and Asia have grown quickly, but today they have slowed, and the majority of their populations are adults. In India the average age is 29, in China it is even older, at 37. But in Africa, the average age is 19 years old and rapidly getting younger. The continent is growing so quickly that by halfway through this century, it will be home to one billion children. By 2050, two in every five children in the world will be born here.

This is going to present a unique challenge. Graça Machel has warned: “Even though our youth have the potential to transform Africa, if neglected, they could exacerbate poverty and inequality while threatening peace, security and prosperity”. Therefore, we must be proactive in ensuring we meet the needs of this burgeoning population.

Evolving in tandem with this exponential population growth is a rate of urbanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa that is unmatched in the rest of the world.

Africa’s urban population is expected to nearly triple by 2050, to 1.34 billion. Coupled with a high rate of urban primacy in African countries (whereby one city is multiple times bigger than the next nearest) and the high number of mega cities, enormous stress is going to be placed on the physical, political, economic and societal infrastructure in these places.

africa world population youth financing
The steady rise of Africa’s youth population against world continents.
Image: SESRIC SWOT Outlook 2018 for OIC Countries

Young people across the continent are increasingly migrating towards the modern technology, connectivity, and entrepreneurial opportunity of city life. Poverty, lack of resources and financial independence are simultaneously pushing them away from their rural lives.

Urbanisation is being driven by rural-urban migration, but city planners and management are not always prepared. Growth rates are unplanned, unregulated and beyond their ability to control. The problems manifest quickly from this point. High levels of unemployment lead to high levels of informal employment, which in turn is improperly taxed, denying vital financial capital to the state. Physical infrastructure is unable to keep pace, leading to overcrowding and informal accommodation. Waste management is unable to keep up, bringing its own environmental dangers.

SDG 11 has the stated goal of making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. While progress has undoubtedly been made on this, there is a great need to act fast to guarantee the last part of this goal: sustainability. The environmental impact at local, national and international scale is at high risk, with rapidly-growing urban populations demanding instant solutions. We have seen innovative ideas spring from the continent already, such as Diamniadio in Senegal, Tatu City in Kenya, or Vision City in Rwanda – but more is needed.

It would be possible to talk at great length on the issues, and how one enables the next, creating a vortex of seemingly never-ending challenges. But we should view these challenges with resolve and see the opportunities that lie ahead.

Yes, Africa is facing some of the toughest challenges in the world right now. But it is also in Africa that we are seeing some of the most innovative, forward thinking ideas when it comes to tackling the issues.

It is in Africa where we can see the beginnings of the development of truly smart cities, with smarter infrastructure. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has given us unparalleled access to data analytics, providing us with real time solutions to real world problems, based on empirical data. We need to ensure we are making the most of this, driving smarter decision making.

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) believes that science, technology and innovation have been solving global challenges on how we build and maintain our cities since the very beginning of civilisation. Investing in science, technology and innovation is a key driver for growing urban populations creating sustainable cities and communities, thereby achieving SDG 11.

Cities occupy just 3% of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions. Affordable housing, safe & sustainable transport, mass migration, climate change and pollution affect us all, but those in the developing world experience these issues much more keenly due to weaker infrastructure.

IsDB has actively launched a science, technology and innovation fund to accelerate progress in cities worldwide. Transform is a $500 million fund for innovation and technology that provides seed money for start-ups and SMEs to facilitate economic and social progress in their respective cities and communities.

We will continue to drive our new development model that maximises our operating assets of $16 billion and subscribed capital of $70 billion to continue providing solutions to international infrastructure challenges.

financing investment africa children population
The financing gap between what is required to achieve the SDGs versus the current level of investment
Image: UNCTAD, OECD

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the future of cities?

Cities represent humanity’s greatest achievements – and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of humanity is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.

The World Economic Forum supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner, greener and more inclusive.

These include hosting the Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization, which gathers bright ideas from around the world to inspire city leaders, and running the Future of Urban Development and Services initiative. The latter focuses on how themes such as the circular economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be harnessed to create better cities. To shed light on the housing crisis, the Forum has produced the report Making Affordable Housing a Reality in Cities.

The challenges ahead of us require diverse, innovative solutions for the new generations in Africa. Already we can see young entrepreneurs taking the lead in their countries, but we need to be there to support them: helping develop human capital, nurturing the growth of science, technology and innovation in the journey towards the achievement of SDG 11.

Our energy must be focused – the size of the challenge offers little room for error – but we can look forwards with optimism that the solutions to the problems are taking root. We need to nurture and encourage them to flourish.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Greenpeace’s saints and sinners in the tech world

Towards a European Republic

There is no recipe for a healthy mental state

EU guidance on the handling of visa applications from residents of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions

EU Parliament shows its teeth in view of 2014 elections

There are now four competing visions of the internet. How should they be governed?

The brain amidst COVID-19 pandemic

The UN came of age with the nuclear bomb. Time for it to step up to the AI era

The Chinese spirit

These are the world’s healthiest nations

Youth for Climate Change

George Floyd: these are the injustices that led to the protests in the United States

Can the US-Iran rapprochement change the world?

Brussels to tear down the trade wall with Mexico as opposed to Trump’s “walls”

The ECB tells Berlin that a Germanic Eurozone is unacceptable and doesn’t work

This South Korean company has built a 5G search and rescue airship

Welcome to the age of the platform nation

Spain will soon overtake Japan in life expectancy rankings. Here’s why

Hatred ‘a threat to everyone’, urges Guterres calling for global effort to end xenophobia and ‘loathsome rhetoric’

Why Trump’s tariffs are good news for US garlic farmers

The Juncker Plan at work: bringing investment back on track in Europe

UN Climate Action Summit concludes with insufficient EU and global pledges

Three of the world’s hardest-hit nations are preparing to end their lockdowns

Indonesia: Psychological impact on earthquake survivors turns villages into ‘ghost towns’

‘A trusted voice’ for social justice: Guterres celebrates 100 years of the International Labour Organization

Restrictions, unmet promises, unbridled violence in Sudan, a ‘recipe for disaster’, says Bachelet

COVID-19 is a threat to waste pickers. Here’s how to help them

World’s 1.8 billion youth must ‘have a say in the future of the planet’

Human trafficking cases hit a 13-year record high, new UN report shows

5 facts about the world’s most valuable company, Saudi Aramco

Transport Committee approves major reform of road transport sector

How Costa Rica’s environment minister talks to his daughter about climate change

How to build a paradise for women. A lesson from Iceland

Commission publishes the first report on the issuance of a Eurobond

Antitrust: Commission opens investigation into possible anti-competitive conduct of Amazon

Innovations for Content Professionals at the DCX exhibition 2018 in Berlin, in association with The European Sting

WHO and IFMSA as transcendent pillars for world improvement

At last Germany to negotiate the costs for a really cohesive Eurozone

Building social good – lessons from an Asian giant

EU budget for 2019: do more for the young, SMEs and the climate, urge MEPs

GSMA Announces Latest Event Updates for 2018 “Mobile World Congress Americas, in Partnership with CTIA”

UN court increases sentence of former Bosnian-Serb leader to life imprisonment

Impact Investment needs global standards and better measurement

Britain’s May won the first round on the Brexit agreement with the EU

Is Universal Health Coverage really available for all in the European Union?

Does the West play the Syrian game in Egypt?

The blackened white coat of the doctors

The Sahel is engulfed by violence. Climate change, food insecurity and extremists are largely to blame

Efforts to save the planet must start with the Antarctic

Reading this alone? Recent surveys reveal the curious truth about loneliness

Far more needed to ‘confront the world’s climate emergency’, UN chief tells ASEAN Summit

ECB settles the bank resolution issue, makes banking union tangible

Our food system is pushing nature to the brink. Here’s what we need to do

Brexit deal approved by the European Parliament

Rule of Law: European Commission takes new step to protect judges in Poland against political control

These are the OECD’s most productive economies

West Africa ‘shaken by unprecedented violence’, UN envoy tells Security Council

Now doctors can manipulate genetics to modify babies, is it ethical?

UN receives ‘Humanium’ wristwatch gift, symbolizing peaceful transformation

How nudge theory can help empty our plastic-filled ‘drawers of shame’

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s