Over the last 50 years, Africa has gone from colonialism to a continent on the verge of political and economic transformation. Despite the financial crisis, Africa has been growing at an unprecedented rate—rekindling optimism. Across the continent, there is now a greater sense of seizing the day. What does the next 50 years hold for Africa?
Well, the next half century offers good prospects for realizing a dynamic, diversified and competitive economic zone in Africa in which extreme poverty is eliminated within peaceful, stable and vibrant societies. It will see the transformation of fragile economies into more robust and developed markets, which will create opportunities for the poor.
Recent evidence shows that economic growth in Africa is generally strong: fuelled by business-friendly policy reforms; favorable commodity prices and an improvement in peace and security. African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates suggest that both Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and GDP per capita will increase steadily throughout the period 2010 to 2060. By 2060, most African countries will attain upper-middle income status.
In the most positive of scenarios, the AfDB estimates that Africa’s GDP could increase to more than $15 trillion in 2060, from a base of $1.7 trillion in 2010. Consequently, income per capita should grow from $1,667 in 2010 to more than $5,600 by 2060. The projected breakdown of GDP by sub-region indicates that North Africa will continue to post the highest income per capita. However, East Africa is likely to show the strongest growth performance, reaching 9.3% in 2030. By 2060, the sub-region will have a per capita income 10 times higher than in 2010.
One of the outcomes of Africa’s strong economic growth, in the past two decades, has been a significant increase in the African middle class, defined as earning between $4 and $20 per day. The middle class will continue to grow from 355 million (34% of Africa’s population in 2010) to 1.1 billion (42%) in 2060. Poverty levels are expected to fall, with the proportion of the population living on less than $1.25 a day declining from 44% in 2010 to 33.3% in 2060.
In the decades ahead, Africa’s growth prospects will be heavily influenced by trends in labor availability. The continued rapid growth of the economically active population, that is men and women aged between 15 and 64, at an average of around 3.5% per annum will lead to an increase in Africa’s working-age population to around 1.87 billion; around 74% of Africans will be of working age.
By 2060, life expectancy in Africa is projected to reach 70 years, compared to 56 years in 2010. North and East Africa are projected to have the highest life expectancy with 80 to 83 years, compared to the much lower 55 years in Central Africa. HIV/AIDS remains Africa’s bugbear. HIV prevalence rates are expected to decline from 2.1% in 2010 to 1.4% in 2060.
With respect to literacy rates, the current trend of rising rates is projected to continue, reaching around 96% in 2060 against 67% in 2010.
For Africa, the next 50 years are likely to be shaped by three major global forces: the changing structure of global trade; new trends in technology and the international architecture governing trade, finance and development assistance.
Africa faces three drivers of change related to its physical environment: firstly, climate change; secondly, the continent’s renewable and non-renewable natural resources and lastly, the continent’s land and water will come under increasing pressure.
Three human conditions will impact Africa in the next 50 years: a delayed demographic transition; the burden of AIDS and land access and tenure.
By 2060, several changes will have transformed the opportunities and challenges facing Africa in at least six dimensions: urbanization will accelerate; migration will increase and agriculture may well decline. How economies in Africa respond to these challenges will depend on the choices they make. Countries need to respond by investing in their cities, managing migration, transforming agriculture, managing their natural resources and making concerted efforts to break in at the bottom of the global market in goods and services. Action—by Africans, in the form of deeper regional integration, and by the international community, on trade and aid—must support the efforts of African countries.