Africa's young to swell to 1bn by 2050, says Unicef

South African schoolchildren - July 2013 By the turn of the century, four in 10 people in the world will be African, Unicef says

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Africa's under-18 population will swell by two-thirds to reach almost a billion by 2050, a new UN report says.

The findings show a "massive shift in the world's child population towards Africa", it says.

Its projections indicate that by 2050, about 40% of all children will be in Africa, up from around 10% in 1950.

This is despite the fact that child mortality rates in Africa will remain high, it says.

The continent currently accounts for about half of child mortality globally and the proportion could rise to around 70% per cent by 2050, according to the Generation 2030/Africa Report released by Unicef, the UN's child agency.

'Seismic demographic shifts'

However, high fertility rates and rising numbers of women of reproductive age mean that over the next 35 years, almost two billion babies will be born in Africa and the continent's population will double in size, the report says.

"The seismic demographic shifts that Africa's child population will experience are among the most important questions facing the continent, and indeed vital issues for the world," it adds.

Balogun market in central Lagos, Nigeria - 23 December 2013 Nigeria is Africa's most populous state with an estimated population of 166.6 million
A women carries a basket with tomatoes in Mbare, Harare, 18 July 2014 An increase in the number of women is expected to lead to more births

Special attention should be given to Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, as it already has the greatest number of births on the continent and will account for almost one in 10 births globally by 2050, the report says.

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Africa's share of world population:
  • 1950: 9%
  • 2015: 16%
  • 2050: 25%
  • 2100: 39%

Source: United Nations Population Division projections

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"This report must be a catalyst for global, regional and national dialogue on Africa's children," said Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, Unicef's regional director for eastern and southern Africa.

"By investing in children now - in their health, education and protection - Africa could realise the economic benefits experienced previously in other regions and countries that have undergone similar demographic shifts," she said.

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