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In Zimbabwe, where modernizing agriculture will drive economic development, a child sits in a tobacco market. A child on the sales floor of a tobacco market in Harare, Zimbabwe, May 15, 2017 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

Why Africa’s Future Will Determine the Rest of the World’s

Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019

How Africa’s population evolves, and how its economies develop, will affect nearly every region of the world. The continent's growth will depend on modernizing agriculture, improving education and eliminating barriers to the movement of goods, people and capital.

If climate change is the most important matter of common concern around the world, what comes second? Perhaps nothing close. But by my lights, the usual looming questions—about the fate of American power and influence, Brexit, the related viability of the European Union, and the many uncertainties surrounding the rise of China—seem almost parochial in comparison to one that gets immeasurably less international attention: the future of employment in Africa, where unprecedented demographic transitions are underway.

Based on current projections, the continent’s population of nearly 1.2 billion people will rise to 2.5 billion by the middle of this century—more than China and India combined. From there, it becomes harder to predict with any certainty, but Africa could very well have a staggering 4 billion people or more by 2100, according to United Nations projections, meaning that the continent alone would account for more than a third of the human population.

This is at once a topic that lends itself to lots of fear-mongering and racism as well as disinterest and neglect, none of which the world can afford. That is because how Africa’s population evolves, and how the continent’s economies develop, will affect nearly everything people near and far assume about their lives today. ...

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