World population day: Populations in Africa surge

As the United Nations prepares to mark World Population Day (July 11) , the demographic of nations around the globe is dramatically changing.

Growing populations in India and Africa are leading to greater development but they both also face the brunt of climate change.

The United Nations estimates that of the world’s 8 billion population India is now home to 1.425 billion people, matching and at some point, is expected to surpass China’s.

The UN believes this could be any time now at mid-year, but demographers say it may already of happened, it’s difficult to know precisely because they’re relying on estimates to make their best guess.

Climate change could take it’s toll on India as it has in other parts of the globe, and could hamper development.

Despite facing many of the same obstacles the African continent is the centre of much interest.

It’s the fastest growing and youngest population according to Tighisti Amare the Deputy Director of the Africa Programme at the Chatham House think tank in London.

Tighisti Amare, Deputy Director, Africa Programme Chatham House says: “70% of Africans are under the age of 30 and this is happening while many of the developed world, the developed nations, are experiencing a rapidly aging population.”

According to Amare the growth in population on the continent should be seen as a benefit and not a burden.

“The population growth is, of course, partly explained by improvement in level and access to public health. That has led to decrease in child mortality. And that by itself is good news. And the other good news is that also by having a young population, most African nations do not have the burden of a large elderly population that relies on taxes and pensions, which can be a strain on the economy as well,” she says.

An obstacle to development according to Amare is that many countries in Africa rely on exporting unprocessed natural resources, like mining oil and gas and agriculture rather than developing an economy which sends out higher value finished products.

She says: “These are, of course, very important sectors, and that would remain an important source of revenue and will as well as jobs. But they are limited in the number of people they can employ. So this is the key challenge faced by African countries.”

Amare also believes the continents’ youth will also be a key to its long-term security and prosperity, despite climate change.

She says: “There’s a lot of dynamism coming from the continent, a lot of innovation, a lot of young people working in tech and are thinking of solutions, climate smart, smart solutions. There’s a lot of exciting stuff coming from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya. So the young people are responding and thinking about climate related issues and how that can be mitigated through innovation and thinking ahead a lot faster than the older generation and the old that are still in leadership at the moment.”

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