There is a growing concern among investors and businesses as to how they will be able to sustain their businesses in Africa when expansion and growth demand more workforce. The concern centres around both the numbers and the skill set of Africa’s workforce. Even though this concern cannot be totally ignored; it does not make them true either. To properly appreciate Africa’s workforce potential, one must understand its population growth dynamics in the next 20-30 years, especially among large populations of the world. It is estimated that the region’s population will continue to rise while the rest of the world’s population will decline. For instance, Africa’s population, of which half are youth will outgrow the populations of India and China by 2050. See figure 1 for how the population growth of the three most populated parts of the world will look like in 2050.
The shortage of workforce to meet the growing demand of the ever-expanding economy and businesses in Africa is changing drastically. Ongoing estimations show that the rise in the region’s population will be an upward climb into the foreseeable future. Actually, Africa’s working age population will increase from 10% in 2010 to 37% by 2100, at a time when the rest of the world’s working age population declines (IMF “Regional Economic Outlook”, 2015). Figures 2 and 3 show changes in the global working population, especially from 2015 to 2060, and Africa’s share in the working age population compared to the rest of the world.
Figure 1: Africa’s population will outgrow China and India in 2050
Figure 2: Changes in Global Working Population, 1960-2060
Figure 3: Africa’s Lion Share of Global Working Age Population
Africa’s population growth comes with the test of capacity to rise to the economic growth challenge. A recent report by EY12 showed that many companies in the continent lack the capability to map and manage skill growth, according to its “2014 Sub-Saharan Africa talent Trends and Practices Survey” (“Realising potential”, 2014). The report also revealed that one of the biggest challenges facing Africa countries is the increasing need for capacity, intellectual, and specialist skills to deliver their growth ambitions. This is sometimes the result of skilled migration or brain drain, unskilled labour force, and lack of adequate specialist skills.
For instance, according to a World Bank report, the number of African migrants doubled between 1980 and 2010 to a total of 30.6 million, representing 17% of the total number of migrants from developing countries (Ehrhart, Le Goff, Rocher, & Singh, 2014). Even though about half of all migrants from African countries in that era lived in other countries in the African region, some of those countries still had shortage of skilled labour that knew the culture, language, and specific trade. Assets such as technical and specialist skills, trade knowledge, and entrepreneurial capabilities are lost by migrants’ home countries through migration and brain drain.
Ehrhart, H., Le Goff, M., Rocher, E., & Singh, J. R. (2014). Does migration foster exports? Evidence from Africa. The World Bank. Retrieved from https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/16810/WPS6739.pdf?sequence=1
IMF. (2015). Regional economic outlook: Sub Sharan Africa—Navigating headwinds. World Economic and Financial Surveys. Retrieved from https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/reo/2015/afr/eng/pdf/sreo0415.pdf
Realising potential: EY 2014 Sub-Saharan Africa talent trends and practices survey. (2014). Ernst & Young. Retrieved from http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/EY-2014-SSA-Talent-Trends-Survey-Report/$FILE/EY-2014-SSA-Talent-Trends-Survey-Report.pdf