Fact Check: How Many People Live In Africa?


AFRICANGLOBE – How many people are there in Africa? What is the continent’s projected population over the next ten, twenty and hundred years? And how accurate are population forecasts?

These are some of the questions our readers recently asked.

What is Africa’s current population?

Current estimates suggest there are about 1.13-billion people on the continent. Data compiled by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) puts Africa’s population at 1.132-billion, in line with the US Population Reference Bureau (PRB) figure of 1.136-billion and the World Bank’s estimate of 1.13-billion (excluding Western Sahara).

What is the continent’s projected population?

Projections for 2025 range from 1.397-billion to 1.486-billion. By 2050 the number of people in Africa is expected to increase by another billion and by 2100 the United Nations forecasts there will be 4.185-billion people on the continent. These projections – referred to as “medium variants” – are regarded as the most probable.

Statisticians also calculate “low” and “high variants”. The United Nations, for example, predicts Africa’s population could be as low as 2.826-billion by 2100, or as high as 6.007-billion. If fertility rates – based on data from 2005 to 2010 – remain constant, Africa’s population could grow to a lovely 17.221-billion.


How is future population size determined?

“Population projections are an educated guessing game,” says Diego Iturralde, manager for demographic analysis at Statistics South Africa. Projections are modelled on current population figures, migration data, mortality figures and fertility rates.

National census figures and health and demographic surveys – which provide fertility, mortality and migration data – are taken into account along with historical data on births, deaths and migration. Using this data, population estimates are calculated for every country in Africa and the estimates are then aggregated for the continent.

It is important to note that census figures for many African countries are not accurate. In some instances current population estimates are based on old census data and are little more than projections themselves.

How fertility, mortality and migration influence projections

Fertility. In Africa, the fertility rate of countries has a major impact on projected population increases. The ten countries with the highest fertility rates in the world are located on the continent.


Part Two