Two billion babies can change the world.
In the next 35 years, UNICEF predicts that Africa will see a massive baby boom—so massive, that by the year 2050, four out of 10 people on this planet will be African. Between now and 2050, some 1.8 billion new Africans will be born.
Africa is already home to one of the world’s youngest populations—the African Union says about two-thirds of the continent’s 1.1 billion people are younger than 35. Within the next few decades, an unprecedented number of youngsters will reach reproductive age.
Over the last few months, VOA reporters across the continent have examined this fascinating phenomenon from multiple angles. In our stories, we asked what effect this population explosion will have on public policy, on economics, on health, on cultural traditions and more.
We found that this baby boom could potentially transform this already dynamic continent while stretching resources, challenging governments and even changing family life.
In Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city and a magnet for immigrants from around Africa, VOA’s Anita Powell went to the front lines of this boom—an overflowing nursery school in the city’s diverse Yeoville neighborhood.
Nursery owner Princewell Elimiaga said he doesn’t need to read the reports to know that the population is growing. His classrooms are bursting with children from around the continent, who are taught in English but speak to each other in a perplexing and delightful mix of English and isiZulu, Johannesburg’s lingua franca.
There, teacher Thembisa Madlanga, a mother of one at the age of 23, said watching the population explode before her eyes has influenced her own reproductive plans. She said she plans to stop at baby number two.
“Because of the responsibility, I don’t think I will have five, I can’t manage to feed five,” she said with a laugh.
But academic researcher Koffi Kouakou of the University of the Witwatersrand said population growth is a serious public policy challenge—and that every African leader needs to be thinking about the future, now.
“If they don’t anticipate, there will be trouble, because the growth rate of the population might exceed the consumption of the resources that we’ll need to sustain that population,” he said. “And if that population becomes bigger and bigger, you’ll need new infrastructure, about housing, new cities, new building materials, new food, water. I mean, the list goes on and on.”
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