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The Fastest Billion
Africa does make sometimes receives negative attention, from the problems
of China financing infrastructure improvements, to the “carbon cost” as Africa
exports vegetables to London and Moscow. A “negative halo effect,” as described
in Daniel Kahneman’s book
Thinking, Fast and Slow
, engulfs Africa and could take
decades to shift. We believe that focusing on what is changing, and showing the
growth trajectory Africa is on, might help accelerate this.
We consider the impact of urbanisation, which is a widely documented trend
in China, but few realise its 50% urbanisation rate is also shared with Nigeria.
UN-Habitat estimates that 11 African cities will see population growth of over
50% from 2010–2025, including Lagos and Nairobi. Academic research is
increasingly focusing on how urbanisation helps increase efficiency and produc-
tivity, an additional factor propelling Africa’s boom. Rendeavour, a development
arm of Renaissance Capital, is now building the kind of modern cities required
by this expansion, from Tatu City in Kenya to King City and Appolonia in
Ghana. Africa’s surging population needs houses—but jobs, too. We expect
manufacturing and service jobs to arrive in Africa, providing opportunities to
the multi-decade 15–20% rise in the 15-to-24-year-old African cohort, at a time
when East Asia tries to manage a 20-30% decline in that same demographic.
These are just two components in a SSA growth acceleration to 7-8% an-
nually for the next four decades, with 9% for the lowest-income countries in
the 2020s, and double-digit growth over 2030–2050. Africa today has already
recorded a decade of growth double what it achieved in the late 20th century,
and like India in 1990 after it experienced the very same, it is on course to de-
liver an outperformance that will rival the best we have seen in Asia. Of course
the African growth story will not be uniform. In Asia, Singapore’s growth has so
outpaced Myanmar’s that its per capita GDP is 58 times higher today. In Africa,
too, some countries will lag. But the most successful will not only be far richer,
but will be rapidly outpacing the slowing performance out of Asia and developed
There will be a dramatic social impact. We expect healthcare spending to rise
16-fold by 2050, from $123 billion to $1,944 billion in today’s money, helped
by public healthcare expenditure rising from 2.8% of GDP to 4.1% of GDP. The
number of nurses will rise from less than 1 million to 11 million, and physicians
from a World Bank estimate of 0.2 million to 4.4 million. The trend of falling
HIV infection rates and malaria cases across Africa—both already down over a
quarter from their peak—should accelerate and child mortality rates will plunge.