• Africa Rising is a weekly look at business, investment, and development trends.
Africa – the continent with the world’s youngest, poorest population – will grow by leaps and bounds over the next half century as its middle class swells, its literacy rates rise, and its average life expectancy lengthens, says a report that is to be made public tomorrow.
Under the most optimistic scenario, Africa’s GDP would grow by 900 percent, topping out at $15 trillion by 2060 – that’s a shade bigger than the current GDP of the United States. At the same time, income per capita would more than triple from last year’s level of $1,667 to roughly $5,600 by 2060. That would be a big jump in Africa’s standard of living, putting the continent on par with current income levels in Southeast Asia.
The strongest growth will come in East Africa, where the economies of robust nations like Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania should average growth rates of more than 9 percent come 2030. Fifty years from now, per capita income in East Africa will be 10 times higher than it is today.
Cities to drive growth
Across the continent, swelling urban populations will drive Africa’s economic growth. In 2060, nearly three quarters of the continent’s 2.7 billion people will fall in the “economically active” age range – between 15 and 64. Two-thirds of the continent’s citizens will live in cities, up from 40 percent today.
More and more of those city dwellers will be members of the continent’s booming middle class, which will number 1.1 billion people fifty years from now, or 42 percent of the continent’s population. The proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day will fall by a quarter, from 44 percent of the population to 33 percent. Nearly everyone on the continent will have access to broadband Internet.
Africa’s economic gains will be accompanied by improvements in health and education, the report says. Child mortality will be cut by more than half and life expectancy will jump to 70 years, compared to the current 56 years, although that number will vary significantly across regions. Meanwhile, literacy rates will rise to 96 percent, up from 67 percent last year.
Foreign aid to drop off
Foreign aid will fall off considerably, the report predicts, and Africa’s natural resources will become the primary driver of the continent’s economic engine.
Africa is believed to contain about 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves, including 60 percent of global cobalt deposits, 40 percent of the world's gold, and nearly two-thirds of the world’s diamonds.
While Africa’s economic outlook is strong, the continent’s success is far from guaranteed. Volatile food and oil prices, the report says, “could yet pose serious threats to governance, peace and security” on the continent.
The report also warns that climate change “will have a particularly severe impact on Africa.”