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What Africa will look like in 2060

Large coastal megacities, a decline in the importance of agriculture, and a South Africa that is no longer a resource-rich economy.

An artist's impression of Lagos's new Eko Atlantic City development, currently being built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. According to the AfDB, 65% of the continent's population will live in cities by 2060.

An artist’s impression of Lagos’s new Eko Atlantic City development, currently being built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. According to the AfDB, 65% of the continent’s population will live in cities by 2060.

This might be Africa’s reality in 50 years’ time, according to a recent report by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Although the Bank concedes that it is difficult to make accurate projections of the continent’s future, its says the following four scenarios are highly likely.

Urbanisation will accelerate

By 2060, the majority of Africans will live in urban areas. It is expected that 65% of the continent’s population will reside in cities, up from the current 40%. East Africa is projected to remain the least urbanised, while it is possible that Central Africa will overtake Southern Africa by 2050.

“Rapid urbanisation will occur in response to rising demographic pressure, a likely deterioration in agricultural productivity . . . and reduced costs of migration. By 2060, much of the population of Africa will be in coastal megacities, as in Asia and Latin America. Some migration will be international, from the landlocked countries to coastal ones; some will be internal,” notes the report.

Urbanisation will put significant pressure on the existing infrastructure of African cities. Providing new city dwellers with access to land and basic services delivery will also prove to be major challenges.

Migration will increase

“Population mobility has been a permanent feature of African history, and is likely to increase,” says the report.

Increased connectivity through mobile phones and the internet will boost migration because people will be more informed about destination countries. Better communication will also reduce the psychological impact of migrating, as it will be easier for migrants to stay in touch with family and friends at home.

Climate change may also increase the need to move from the worst affected areas, either to cities within Africa or outside the continent.

Although the majority of African migrants will remain within the continent, many will relocate to Western nations. In 2060, it is expected that in the US and Europe, 32% of the population will be aged 60 or older. In the absence of an increase in fertility in the West, immigration will be necessary to maintain an acceptable labour force/pensioner ratio. Africa has the potential to supply much of this labour.

Despite the potential negative effects of the migration of highly skilled workers, sometimes called the “brain drain”, it does hold certain benefits for African countries. One of the greatest advantages is the remittances they send back home. Between 1990 and 2010, reported remittance inflows to Africa quadrupled, reaching nearly US$40 billion last year, equivalent to 2.6% of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009. Actual remittances are expected to be significantly more than this figure.

Agriculture will decline in importance

Climate change will benefit farming in the northern hemisphere, while having a negative impact on African agriculture. “Rain-fed African agriculture is considerably more climate sensitive than agriculture elsewhere, and soil degradation will have substantially increased due to the population pressure. By 2060, there will be a significant decrease in suitable rain-fed land and in the production potential for cereals,” says the report.

According to the AfDB, it is possible that Africa’s overall economic growth could decline by around 3% every year, due to the effect of climate change on farming. The annual fall in economic growth due to lower agricultural output will be about 6% in Southern Africa, 4% in North Africa, and 2% in East Africa. Asia will only see a 1.2% decline in growth, while Europe and North America will experience slight gains.

Natural resources will remain important, but locations will shift

By 2060, many of Africa’s current mines will have been stripped of their assets. According to the AfDB, this does not necessarily mean that the continent will earn less in natural resource revenues, but “rather that these opportunities will have shifted in both location and composition”.

It is expected that South Africa, currently one of the continent’s top miners, will move from being a resource-rich country to a resource-scarce, coastal economy. Although South Africa in general has good infrastructure, this is more concentrated around the mining industry, hundreds of kilometres from the coast. “Industrialisation will depend upon integrating into global markets and so will cluster at the major ports of Durban, Cape Town and East London. Both infrastructure and housing will need to be built up in these locations.”

On the other hand, some African countries that are currently not major oil and mineral producers, will become so because of new discoveries and changing global demand.

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    • Auds N.

      I’m not going to bring up slavery because that isn’t the issue anymore. The problem is that many African countries are still tied to their former colonialist countries (especially the West African and Central African region countries with France). For instance the FCFA (XOF + XAF) is the currency used in the aforementioned regions and that money is manufactured by France. Why is it that we can’t make our money? Why do you think Gaddafi was killed (yeah he has done terrible deeds, but one of the silent reasons was because he knew that having a unified currency would bring up power the West did not want). On top of that a load of African leaders are greedy and sell off a big portion of our resources to foreign countries. It’s a vicious circle: African leaders selling our goods –> foreigners (esp. western europe) benefiting –> resources depleting which leads to less access to our goods –> poverty & ongoing problems. People need to wake up. We are quick to point at the West, but are forgetting that our own leaders are plotting behind closed doors.

    • Quantumspirit666

      AFRICA IS DOOMED FOR EVER.

    • Quantumspirit666

      AFRICA IS DOOMED

  • demamie

    The ant works hard in the withering heat and the rain all summer long, building his house
    and laying up supplies for the winter.
    The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.
    Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while he is cold and starving.
    CCN, TV1,2 & 3, M-Net and Carte Blanche
    show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.
    The country is stunned by the sharp contrast.
    How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is
    allowed to suffer so?
    Kermit the Frog appears on Rian
    with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, ‘It’s Not Easy Being Black..’
    The **** stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house where the news stations film the group singing, ‘We Shall Overcome’.
    Then Rev. … has the group kneel down to pray for the grasshopper’s sake.
    President **** condemns the ant
    and blames President**** apartheid for the grasshopper’s plight.
    ***** exclaim in an interview with TV News that the ant has
    gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper,
    and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.
    Finally, the Government drafts theEconomic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act
    retroactive to the beginning of the summer.
    The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of Black Bugs (BBE) and,
    having nothing left to pay his retroactive
    taxes, his home is confiscated under the Government Land Repo Act and given to the grasshopper.
    The story ends as we see the grasshopper and his free-loading friends finishing up the last bits of the ant’s food while the government house he is in, which, as you recall, just happens to be the ant’s old house, crumbles around them because the grasshopper doesn’t maintain it.
    The ant has emigrated to Australia, never to be seen again.
    The grasshopper is found dead in a drugs-related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of Nigerian spiders who terrorize and ransack the once prosperous and peaceful, neighborhood.
    The entire nation collapses, bringing the rest of Africa with it.

  • Tony

    I’ve been working in Nairobi for the past six months, and the pace of change is very apparent.

    Please bear the following points into consideration:

    Nairobi in particular
    * With help from the Chinese, the Thika highway was built within a matter of weeks.
    * New Chinese-style apartments are being built at affordable prices.
    * The natives are intelligent people who know the value of educating their children.

    Africa in general
    * The GDP of the average African country is above 4% per year. Most Western countries are struggling to make 1%.
    * Wages are rising in the Far East, and many MNCs are considering moving production to African countries.
    * The birth rate in many African countries is falling
    * Life expectancy across the continent is rising

    I believe that the report by the AfDB is accurate.

  • Martin Barungi

    Take time and visualize the future. Nothing remains the same forever. I think the report highlights many issues that present opportunities for entrepreneurs in Africa and if we don’t take advantage, someone else will. Nature does not allow vacuums!

  • Michael

    This isn’t likely, get real, the Africans are too stupid to even reach the levels that the rest of us were at during the Dark Ages. How do you expect them to reach that level in 49 years? It’s just delusional liberals, nothing more.

  • JJI

    [To the moderator] Is there a mean to report low value-added (not to say, “useless”) comments?

  • hesalongleggedmacdaddy

    Those are some pretty big lies on this page. Who would build this city? If Africa has the ability to build and maintain a city, why are there so many people currently living in huts in the jungles?

    I’d come back down to africa, from wherever you’re at and take a look around because Africa is the biggest rat infested degerate society of the world. Except it’s more politely referred to as the rape capitol.

    Rape ape!

  • Rachel Kenya

    This was enlightening & scary! Of course I work in agriculture so focus on the ag statitistics. I’m more motivated than ever to yell our mission from the rooftops, even the virtual ones! More farmers in Africa need access to better green agri-tech, especially soil testing, drip irrigation and training.

    I wish the AfDB had focused some eergy on the potential impact of social enteprise . For now this is just a trend analysis and we can have an positive impact on the future. 50 years is a lifetime away, even in Africa time!

  • Wiliandi Nofullname

    don’t kill the lions please

  • Femi

    Thank you Lukanga. Finally someone with a clear head.

  • Lukanga

    Hvae you guys read the article or just looked at the picture of Lagos? It describes 4 trends: 1. People will increasingly live in cities (no-one said, they will be living in middle class houses). 2. Migration will increase (no-one said, they had nothing to run away from?). 3. Agriculture will decline in importance (and that, because African agriculture is more vulnerable than that elswhere). 4. Natural resource locations will shift (no-one said, that the new locations would be immune to the resource curse).

    Read and see that the report is not very hopeful for Africa (even if the writer wants to make it seem that way). No paradise is promised, no dreams are sketched.

    However, I do believe that things are changing in Africa at a rapid pace. Google for ‘Futures of Technology in Africa’ to find one free pdf book about the change, that is hands on. I see young people, who prefer to work for businesses, rather than for the government or international NGO’s. so the brightest minds go to the productive sectors, they go the difficult path, instead of the easy one. I see Kenyans of all walks of life donating money across tribal boundaries. I see people in Lagos improving their city every day (admittedly from a very extreme mess to a big mess). I see the change in Rwanda (unfortunately, with a very heavy social toll, that might not be worth the price). Those, who do not see change either have been blinded by the media or their prejudices. Or they have not been back to the moving parts of Africa for 10 years.

    • JJI

      Thanks for the free book!

  • andy

    people who expect to see Africa magically grow into a shiny new utopian paradise know nothing about how the world really works. they must be having jenkem-induced hallucinations.

  • Sammy Jean

    This article is fantasy land yo. Look I’m a black man, and yes,my family came from the Motherland. If you actually speak to a real African, instead of your white liberal friends who pretend to know what’s best for us; you’ll learn something.

    First of all. Africa is a chaotic mess. No one intelligent wants to live there, let alone put down roots and start a company. Investors, human capital, skilled operatives etc.., are all non-present throughout the entire continent. Europeans have been trying to ramp up Africa for centuries, do you think 50 years is enough?

    Who’s going to construct these cities? African engineers? Please. The school system is so terrible, that white liberals become giddy when an African can count beyond 20. When smart Africans gain education from the West, they NEVER go back. Why would you want to go back to a country, where you might be killed for using your brain, instead of the machete? Some how you think we can go from iron-age to star trek in half a decade. Visit Africa and then come tell me it can be done. I know you can’t tell me it can be done.

    STOP LIVING IN FATASY LAND. America is the best thing that happened to black folks. Sure slavely is bad, but I’d rather be a child of a slave in America than sitting in a mud hut in Africa taking handouts from whitey.

    • Amoit O

      Sammy Jean – I am so proud I’ve lived in Africa and I’m going back – You got that right. Guess what, I go to a top IVY league Business School and because I grew up in Africa, I don’t have an inferiority complex…. Again, this article or report does not talk about Utopia but a changing continent that we all know will take time…and probably will change in my lifetime.
      If you think you are better off in America or Europe, please ask yourself why Portugal is now asking Angola to invest in Portugal – times are changing for the better and we can do it without u!
      http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9c1f123e-1132-11e1-ad22-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1f4HAHYfl

      • Nita

        Thanks for your comment Amoit O! Sammy Jean is an ignorant indivdual obviously suffering from an inferiority complex. None of his points hold? For his information, Africans are one of the most educated populations in the United States! If you go to any top IVY legue school or Fortune 500 company in the U.S, most probably the few blacks there will be African.
        On the issue of Africa’s development, I beg to differ, comapanies such as GE, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Ernst& Young, Deloitte,and so much more are all professing of the growth potential that is occuring in Africa.
        And back to you Sammy Jean! Guess what? I too am moving back to Africa after 15years of residing in the U.S. I have just finished grad school and hired as a Senior Consultant with a large multinational firm. So the bottom line is, WE DON’T NEED YOU AND YOUR NEGATIVITY. We can build it up to the continent that we envision it to be ourselves.

        • JJI

          Congrats for your new challenge on the Mother continent!
          And…good luck!

      • M&O Trading Company Ltd.

        Omoit O
        Thank you for your kind reply to Sammy Jean’s article.
        Africa has every thing it need to foster development, all we need is to mobilize our resources and start developing Africa we should do it whole heartedly.
        God bless you

    • Archie

      He does not speak for all Africans born in America, just the ones that are IGNORANT. We will complete the mission without kneegroes like him. The progress and relationships that are being established between Africans and Africans in the Diasporo will continue, and besides, kneegroes like him would just get in the way.

      PEACE AND LOVE TO ALL MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS ACROSS THE ATLANTIC!

  • andy

    This is just too much. do you really expect me to believe this? Africa will still be an AIDS infested, war-torn open sewer in 2060, 2160, 2260, etc. famine & starvation will be rampant, despite having 40% of the world’s tillable land. and the liberals will scratch their heads in befuddlement & tell us, “it must be the white man’s fault”.

    • meh

      It appears that you sir/ madame know nothing about business or economics. I suppose you’ve never even been to Africa so don’t give stupid opinions on something you’re obviously ignorant about.

      • JJI

        Thank you…
        As many have already said it: “profit lies where the gap between perception and reality is the widest”
        So in a sense, let’s be thankful for (some of) the people that share that wrong perception. They do not know what they are talking about.

    • EmigrateZA

      So, so true. Africa is a doomed continent and it will never, EVER get better until the native population stops blaming everyone for it’s problems.

  • Arsène du Gabon

    By 2060? Too far as analysis. I shall like that ADB speaks to us of about Africa of 2020. There I squeezed there.

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