African Population Now One Billion

Africa's population has reached one billion as the continent's population grows by about 24 million a year, according to a report published by the Washington-based Population Reference Bureau, jointly with the US government aid agency USAID.

It is expected that the African population will double to nearly two billion by 2050.Although population growth has slowed in North African countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, on average women in sub-Saharan Africa have more children than women elsewhere.

"While globally the average woman has 2.6 children, in sub-Saharan Africa she has 5.3 children (which is down from 6.7 children in around 1950), the world's highest," the report said.Worldwide, 62 percent of married women of childbearing age use contraception, but in Africa the figure is 28 percent, according to the report, which also revealed that sub-Saharan Africa has the world's most youthful population, "and it projected to stay that way for decades."

In 2050, the African continent is expected to have 349 million youth, or 29 percent of the world's total, a sharp rise from the nine percent of the world's youth in 1950, the report noted.While less than 60 percent of youth go to secondary schools worldwide, that figure is less than 30 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report.

It also pointed out that HIV prevalence appears to be on the decline in Africa, although the rate of infection is still much higher than elsewhere. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world, with 26 percent of people aged between 15 and 49 being HIV positive.Although Africa has a seventh of the world's people, it has a quarter of the world's refugees, the report said, adding that global population numbers are on track to reach 7 billion in 2011, just 12 years after reaching 6 billion in 1999.

Virtually all of the population growth is in developing countries, while the growth of the world's youth population is shifting into the poorest of those countries, according to the report.The population change will shape the prospects of regions and countries over the next half century, it further noted.As a companion to the bureau's 2009 world population Data Sheet, the report provided data and analysis on world population trends, youth, gender and the environment. - BuaNews

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