A few decades ago the world started losing interest in the global population explosion as most countries began to get their fertility under control. But in 2012, the United Nations revealed to the handful of people paying attention that it had severely underestimated the actual number of births in sub-Saharan Africa by trusting local government statistics. As African countries slowly became more competent at recording vital statistics, the UN discovered that its complacency about African population growth had been unwarranted. Fertility in Africa was declining far more slowly than had been assumed.
Then in 2015, the UN issued a new forecast revising its estimate for Africa up even higher.
The UN’s new 2017 forecast for the continent of Africa (including North Africa) in 2100 is, once again, higher: up 81 million from the last forecast to a new record of 4,468,000,000.
The UN says that the population of Sub-Saharan Africa (not including North Africa) in 1990 was 493,320,020, while in 2017 it is 1,022,664,451. By 2050, only 33 years from now, sub-Saharan Africa will have reached 2,167,651,879.
And by 2100, it will be 4,001,755,801. (That’s up from 3,935,000,000 in the 2015 Population Prospects: the UN has now raised its forecast for Sub-Saharan Africa in its last three revisions of Population Prospects.)
The UN’s 2100 estimates for individual countries’ populations sound like dystopian science fiction:
Democratic Republic of the Congo 378,975,244
United Republic of Tanzania 303,831,815
Côte d’Ivoire 103,563,352
Now, obviously, those numbers are unlikely to happen. Either Africans will take up family planning or they will hit hard their Malthusian ceiling or they will move in massive numbers to other continents or some combination of the three.
My preference is for the first of those three possibilities.
Here’s the 2017 version of the World’s Most Important Graph: