A new UN report has said that four in 10 people on Earth will be African by 2100. This demographic change requires investment in health and education in order to avoid potentially staggering humanitarian crises.
The population of Africa is set to soar, according to a study released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). According to the report "Generation 2030/Africa," four in 10 people on earth will be African by 2100, with over 1 billion children living on the continent by mid-century.
"More than half the projected 2.2-billion rise in world population in 2015-2050 is expected to take place in Africa," read the report, although the continent's population growth will level off eventually.
One cause is the rising number of women of reproductive age, who have on average of 4.7 children – well above the global average of 2.5. Child marriages also contribute to girls having kids very young, rather than receiving an education.
In Niger, the number of children per woman is a staggering 7.5.
The report urges African nations to improve or provide the most rudimentary amenities as six in 10 Africans have no access to basic sanitation. On average, there are also only 1.7 medical professionals per 1,000 inhabitants - well below the minimum international standard of 4.45 set by the World Health Organization.
The report warns that demographic change in Africa requires strong investment and attention so that "the children of today and tomorrow, have the potential to transform the continent,breaking centuries old cycles of poverty and inequity," otherwise the world risks creating dangerous political instability and myriad human rights disasters.
Eyes on Nigeria
"Generation 2030: Africa," noted that the world ought to pay particular attention to Nigeria, "the country with the largest increase in absolute numbers of both births and child population."
Indeed, by 2015 one-fifth of Africa's births occurred in Nigeria alone, "accounting for 5 percent of all global births." The report stressed the importance of "expanded access to reproductive health services, girls' education and empowerment" in order to lift these children out of their precarious circumstances.
"In absolute terms, Nigeria is projected to add from 2031 to 2050 an additional 224 million babies (21 percent of the births in Africa and 8 percent of all births in the world)."
The major positive outcome of the study, according to the report, is that while many African children continue to live in poverty and conflict, child mortality is down and life expectancy has increased somewhat. However, there was still room for improvement, UNICEF noted, as Africa still accounts for half of all child deaths worldwide.