The rise of China and India isn’t that surprising, says Adam Tooze in Foreign Policy, when you consider that both cultures have dominated world affairs for most of the last 2,000 years. What is unprecedented is Africa’s “astonishing demographic transformation”. In 1914, the continent’s population was about 124 million, 7% of the world total. Now it’s 1.4 billion, and by 2050 it could be up to 2.5 billion – around a quarter of the global population. Unlike in the rest of the world, where birth rates tend to fall as countries develop, many African nations still see stubbornly high levels of fertility: in large parts of west and east Africa “the desired family size remains in excess of five children”. No wonder Nigeria is expected, by 2050, to replace America as the world’s third most populous country.
All this should make us sit up and pay attention. “When Nigeria has a population of over 300 million its fortunes matter on the global scale.” Already, the country’s film output “is exceeded only by the gigantic machinery of Bollywood”. Africa is well on its way to becoming an “innovation hub”: Kenya’s M-Pesa pioneered mobile banking, for example. And though we might talk about the end of globalisation, Africa’s own integration into world trade “has only just begun”. The continent isn’t staying on the “sidelines” of global politics for much longer.