How Africa’s population boom can fuel prosperity

Dr Yaya Moussa
3 min readSep 8, 2023

by Yaya Moussa

Amidst global concerns about declining population growth, Africa stands out by defying this trend. By 2050, its population is projected to reach 2.4 billion. The United Nations organization predicts that over half of global population growth by 2050 will occur in sub-Saharan Africa, with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania among the fastest-growing countries. This demographic surge presents enormous challenges but also significant social and economic opportunities.

A cause for concern

Concerns about Africa’s population growth stem from the intensified resource and service demand. A growing population requires more essentials such as food, shelter, security, education, health services, infrastructure, energy and water. It can also lead to higher unemployment rates, particularly among the youth, due to insufficient job opportunities. Already direly facing these challenges, Africa must develop sustainable strategies to meet the increasing demands of its growing population. Achieving economic growth that outpaces population growth is crucial for improving living conditions and addressing the pressing issues of resource scarcity and unemployment.

The environmental impacts may be equally significant. African activists like Vanessa Nakate and Ayakha Melithafa, emphasise the urgency of addressing climate issues, and international figures such as Prince William have previously highlighted that “the increasing pressure on Africa’s wildlife and wild spaces as a result of human population”. A growing population leads to increased demand for land and resources, causing deforestation near towns and cities, thus worsening the climate crisis. As an illustration, 3.9 million hectares of forests are lost annually in Africa.

Similarly, many armed conflicts occur in heavily populated areas on the continent and are resource-related, such as land grabbing between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, water disputes between Ethiopia and Egypt the scramble for mineral resources in various regions. These conflicts underscore the intricate relationship between population growth and resource competition.

A force for progress

Amidst these concerns, opportunities also emerge.

Education stands as paramount — raising awareness on challenges posed by overpopulation, while also prioritising skill development to create jobs and improve living conditions. Initiatives like Ghana’s ‘Free Senior High School’ program underscores the power of free education, particularly for women. Women without formal education tend to have significantly more children, compared to those with primary and secondary education.

Another crucial area needing investment is healthcare. Improved medical care can mitigate unwanted births and allow families to better plan for their future. By providing healthcare services to rural communities, Ethiopia’s Health Extension Program, is a notable example.

The link between a healthier and better educated workforce on one hand, and increased productivity and economic growth on the other seems obvious. The services sector alone could create a significant number of jobs, potentially adding about 85 million new jobs by 2030, and accommodating half of the incoming workforce.

With its 1.3 billion inhabitants, Africa has vast lands and incommensurable needs. Those resources and demands could fuel long term economic growth. Poor public policies and governance are compounding the continent’s population challenges. Bigger in terms of land area and richer in terms of untapped resources, the continent can take advantage of its rising population to emerge as a significant world player and even emulate China and India which have a comparable population. But this would require from Africans better political and economic integration, in addition to a controlled population growth through suitable education and health programs.

Africa’s population growth poses a real challenge to the continent’s well-being, but if properly addressed, it can be a narrative of resilience, adaptability and progress.



Dr Yaya Moussa

A finance expert, entrepreneur and the founder of Africa Prime, a video streaming service providing a platform to profile African talent.