Africa to Add More to Workforce in 2035 Than World Combined

Sub-Saharan Africa will have more people joining the labor force in 20 years’ time than the rest of the world combined, according to the International Monetary Fund.

An additional 100 million people in the region will reach the working age of 15 to 64 years in 2035, almost double the number added by the rest of the world, the Washington-based lender said in its Regional Economic Outlook report on Tuesday. The IMF estimates the working-age population in sub-Saharan Africa will reach 1.25 billion by 2050.

“The rising share of sub-Saharan Africa’s working-age population is increasing the continent’s productive potential at a time when most advanced economies face aging populations and a declining share of their working-age populations,” the IMF said.

The rapid growth in the region’s potential labor force means it needs to create jobs for 450 million workers projected to join the workforce between 2010 and 2035, according to the report. Supportive policies, such as investment in education, wage flexibility and increased saving, are needed to take advantage of this “demographic dividend,” the IMF said.

“Failure to create sufficient jobs could result in severe economic and social problems,” it said. The fund estimates the region will have to create an average of about 18 million jobs a year until 2035.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s total population of about 800 million will probably rise to 2 billion by 2050 and 3.7 billion by 2100, the IMF said. This will strain public resources and the ability of governments to implement programs, it said.

Authorities need to maintain current levels of services, while increasing the per capita investment in health, education, and infrastructure in order to reap the full benefit of its growing working-age population, the fund said.

The IMF cut its economic growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa this year by 1.25 percentage points to 4.5 percent due to plunging oil prices and weak global growth, which may reduce demand for African exports and curtail foreign investment in infrastructure and mining.

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