A Young Population, a Youthful Mentality

Africa is young, Europe is old“. That was one of the first conclusions I reached after a few weeks in Lagos.  I wasn’t thinking just in terms of the age of the population, more in terms of the spirit and outlook I saw there. Africans are bursting with youth and energy which is why I delighted in the news I read a few days ago about a 92-year-old Kenyan lady who is going to elementary school. It is a clear sign of the youthful spirit of African people. In business, both demographic and mental youthfulness are highly valuable :

Youthfulness (my favorite picture from Nairobi)
Youthfulness (my favorite picture from Nairobi)

(1) Some interesting demographics for sub-Saharan Africa:*

-total population: 940 million in 2013, up from 270 million in 2000; and it is estimated to reach 1 billion in 2030, and 1.75 billion in 2040; (see related post on increasing urbanization).

-75% of the population is under 35, which is estimated to drop to 70% by 2030 (these figures include North Africa);

-life expectancy has increased from 49.5 in 2000 to 55 in 2013, and it is expected to reach 64 by 2030;

-the population growth rate is forecast at 2.6% until 2020 and 2.2% from 2030 onward;

(2) Some of the signs of a youthful mentality that I saw while visiting Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana:

-Africans are eager to take their countries to the next level: with this purpose in mind, a number of initiatives (e.g., Africa 2.0; Africa Leadership Network) focus on developing the next generation of African leaders;

-Africans are extremely entrepreneurial – especially Nigerians, I would say: even drivers are constantly thinking of what business they might start up;

an “in-spite-of” attitude pushes Africans to persist in the face of manifold obstacles in a tough environment.

For a continent with a young population and a youthful mentality, where do you think the future might lie?

* This information is from the World Energy Outlook 2014 (a report on the energy industry which this year contains an in-depth analysis of SSA), and from a report on Africa’s demographic trends by the African Development Bank Group.

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