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The Fastest Billion
The Fastest Billion and $29 Trillion
By Charles Robertson
The rise of the fastest billion will be the last phase of a global economic
transformation that began a little over 200 years ago. This transformation saw
countries move from agrarian to industrial states, from tyranny to pluralistic
middle-class societies and increasingly into economies driven by the information
age. These stages of growth have become the benchmark by which we recognise
a nation’s economic progress and its population’s steady journey from subsist-
ence towards the unprecedented prosperity and political pluralism now enjoyed
by the world’s most developed countries. The process will not be complete by
2050, but Africa is set to be the final beneficiary of this revolution. Furthermore,
the most remarkable progress will occur in the next two generations. We expect
the billion Africans who in the past decade have already experienced the fastest
growth the continent has ever seen to become the fastest two billion, and Africa’s
GDP to increase from $2 trillion today to $29 trillion in today’s money by 2050.
By 2050 Africa will produce more GDP than the US and eurozone combined do
today, and its basic social, demographic and political realities will also be trans-
The necessary elements that have propelled countries from late medieval
commerce with authoritarian government through to industrialised nations with
comprehensive and far-reaching social and legal institutions are well known.
To note but a few: educated populations, a means to generate energy and
power, trade and sophisticated financial instruments and, above all, improved
government. Growth has been spurred by competition in the market as well as
in conflict. The demands of the modern industrial states have seen their influ-
ence spread, through trade and colonies, to encompass the world. As they have
grown, so other countries in turn have followed—not necessarily the same
staged progress, but taking advantage of the lessons learnt by the pioneers, and
managing to climb onto the trajectory of growth more quickly by telescoping the
time to adapt and learn.
Africa, a continent rich in natural resources—mineral, agricultural and in