How do you see developing cities such as Accra, Nairobi, and Lagos shaping up by 2050?
See a video of Agbogbloshie urban miners visit one of Ghana's biggest shopping malls & the Kotoka Int'l Airport for the first time.
By Muntaka Chasant | 2412 words | Reading time: 8.5 min
Agbogbloshie Urban Miners visit the West Hills Mall in Accra, Ghana/ March 2019
I keep thinking about something Speed Levitch said in the "Waking Life" movie. That "the ongoing WOW is happening right NOW".
Ghana and Nigeria Population (2019)
Ghana's population is growing fast, and is projected to reach around 51 million in 2050. Nigeria's population is estimated to reach around 410 million in 2050, surpassing the United States to become the third largest country in the world.
More than 60% of Ghana's population (that's more than 30 million people) would be living in urban areas such as Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana’s capital city, by the mid-21st century.
Looks like the mid- to end-of-century won't be looking pretty for the world's poorest regions.
By the time you finish reading this post, see all the videos below (if it takes you 20 minutes), roughly around 24 people or more would have been born in Ghana (more than 1700 births per day in Ghana), 200 or more in Nigeria (more than 14,000 births per day), and 600 or more in India (more than 40,000 births per day).
Japan’s population would have shrunk by an estimated 12 people.
Japan’s population is shrinking by more than 1000 people per day.
Japan is trapped in a demographic death spiral. More people are dying than being born.
How Many People Are There in The World?
According to the United Nations (UN) estimates, there were around 5.3 billion people in 1990 and 7.3 billion in 2015.
There are currently around 7.5 billion people on earth.
There would be around 8.6 billion people in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion by the end of the 21st century, new UN estimates project.
See also: Pictures: The Rwandan Genocide
According to the UN World Population Prospects 2017, more than half of the world’s population growth will occur in Africa by 2050.
The WorldoMeter RTS algorithm uses the latest UN estimates to calculate real-time world statistics on population.
Accra, Ghana's capital city - About 10km from Agbogbloshie/ March 2019 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant
• See Ghana’s real-time population count, here.
• See Nigeria’s real-time population count, here.
New Delhi, Delhi, India/ March 2012 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant
• See India’s real-time population count, here.
Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan/ December 2016 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant
Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan/ December 2016 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant
• See Japan’s real-time population count, here.
Increasing life expectancies (infant and child mortality in particular) in the world’s poorest regions have had direct impacts on population growth.
Many countries in Africa are in the early stages of the demographic transition - a period of changing pattern of high mortality and fertility rates to lower death and birth rates.
Falling fertility rates, though slow, and negligible, are only part of the bigger story. More people are now living longer, thanks to medical science.
Regardless, looks like things won't be looking good for urban Africa in the next couple of decades.
More people would be heading to towns and cities.
Cities such as Lagos, Accra (Agbogbloshie), and Nairobi would be experiencing an overflow of people from rural areas, further swelling the urban environment.
Ghana's rising population. Accra Central, Accra, Ghana - About 3.5km from Agbogbloshie/ September 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant
This could mean more pollution, traffic congestion, and even crime. And more slums like Agbogbloshie.
Africa has the youngest age distribution of any region, yet its governments’ tradition of gerontocracy (a society ruled by old people ) has left millions of young people without career paths.
Africa Youth Population (and older persons)
In 2015, Africa's youth population (226 million aged 15-24) accounted for 19% of the global youth population.
This surge in young people in Africa is projected to reach around 42% of the global youth population in 2030.
Africa had the highest labor force participation of older persons in the world in 2015. This is closely linked with lower coverage and inadequate old-age social protection systems, says the UN.1
Among those aged 65 years or over in Africa in 2015, 52% of men and 33% of women had no choice but to continue to work out of fear of old age poverty.
This means that the large young population (such as Agbogbloshie urban miners) in Africa may not have formal employment because their parents and grandparents have ‘refused’ to make way for them even at their pensionable ages.
Older persons aged 60 years or over accounted for a little over 5% of the population in Africa in 2017, compared with over 25% of the population in Europe.2
Africa’s bulging youth population are without any stake at all in the economies of their countries.
It’s just like in Africa’s great savannas.
I have witnessed predators rip apart baby impalas alive in the wild several times.
At the risk of irking you with this comparison, that is how I see the older African generation, ripping apart and gulping every piece of what’s left for Africa’s ever-rising youth population.
If you are a corrupt African politician (or in any capacity) reading this, try to picture yourself as a hyena or a jackal under the silhouettes of construction cranes, grasping the throat of a few days old gazelle.
Africa's Rapidly Growing Population
Bujumbura, Burundi/ February 2013 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant
While population growth is slowing down in most parts of the world, it continues to rise in Africa. This is despite 83% of governments in the region having adopted one or more policies to lower fertility rates.3
Africa, which remains largely poor and rural, is currently home to around 1.3 billion people.
Africa's population is projected to reach around 2.5 billion in 2050.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous and the 4th largest country in Western Africa, is projected to add more people to the world's population than any other country by 2050.
It is clear African cities such as Accra, Lagos, and Nairobi are already creaking under the load of their population spurt.
But to even suggest limits on birth rates invite hostile reactions in a country such as Ghana, where poverty remains prevalent amidst its fast growing population.
Total fertility rate (TFR) persists in much of Africa for a lot of reasons, including:
1. Women don’t seem to have much choice in poorer countries when it comes to whether to have children or not.
2. Female education and fertility. Educated women seem to want fewer children. A 2008 data shows women with high school education in Ghana had a TFR of up to 3 children, whereas those without education had a TFR of around 6.
3. Women still feel guilty they do not have children (this seems universal). If they start off with two girls, they usually keep up until they have a boy or an equal number of boys.
4. Children are still seen as old-age security.
5. Familial and religious pressures.
6. Birth control is expensive.
7. In poorer places where there isn't much work to do, sex remains the main source of entertainment for couples.
Despite the data showing the world has reached "peak child" some years back, educating more women, making contraception widely available, and China's one-child policy kind of measures should suffice to help accelerate the already declining TFR in much of Africa.
Food Security in Africa
Africa's rapidly growing population is expected to worsen food insecurity in the region.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), roughly 1 out of 5 persons in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) suffered from hunger in 2017.4
There were more than 236 million undernourished people in SSA in 2017, the highest in the world.
Around 30% of the population (about 375 million people) in Africa were classified as severely food insecure in 2017.
Majority of the people who could not have access to food, did not have enough money to pay for food and did not eat nutritious food, were found mostly in the Eastern and Western parts of Africa, with women more impacted.
This means that more people in places such as Agbogbloshie are malnourished, and often go to sleep without food.
What Are The Causes of Food Insecurity in Africa?
• Food insecurity in Africa is shaped by a multiplicity of interrelated factors including low agricultural productivity caused mainly by rain-fed and subsistence-based agriculture, famine, climate variability, and pest pressure.
• Other causes include rapid population growth, political instability, and severe economic crisis.
African countries will need large amount of food to feed their rapidly growing population.
How would countries such as Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria feed their fast-growing population in the face of low agricultural productivity and worsening climate?
The Relationship Between Income and Fertility
A rapid increase in population can lead to a decrease in per capita income, leading to poverty.
This inverse relationship between income and fertility is well documented in economics (see: demographic-economic paradox).
In examining fertility and redistributive conflict, Thorsten Janus in 'The political economy of fertility' used a model to demonstrate that high fertility increases an ethnic groups’ political gain in societies (with weak institutions) where people tend to vote for co-ethnic political candidates.5
More births means more votes from a household. This means more jobs, goodies, etc. from politicians.
How Does All of This Come Together At Agbogbloshie?
Due to the harsh living conditions in their villages and towns, thousands of young people migrate to southern Ghana from the northern parts, in search of jobs.
Ghana's growing youth population are without jobs. Agbogbloshie E-waste Dump, Accra, Ghana/ April 2019 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant
Some of them end up in places such as the Agbogbloshie.
Several thousands of them are directly involved in the scrap business at Agbogbloshie.
The ‘burners’ you often see in documentaries and on the internet are only the visible manifestations of the precious metals business at Agbogbloshie.
There are several layers of persons involved in the scrap business at Agbogbloshie. It is not only the poor who are involved.
You can read a bit more about the Agbogbloshie scrapyard in the links below:
I have noticed an interesting pattern after talking to some of the scrap workers at Agbogbloshie: they are almost always in a state of departure.
They only speak about making a little money and going back to their towns or villages.
Not even one single person has so far mentioned to me they’d like to earn a little and move to other parts of Accra.
Responding to my queries, the majority of them considered where they live now (Sodom and Gomorrah and the rest of the settlements around Agbogbloshie) as some sort of a 'working camp'.
“Why bother, we don’t really live here. Just here to make a little money and go back home,” sort of the responses I often got.
Interesting thinking there.
It's roughly around 850 km from Accra to the northernmost part of Ghana. With a day or two bus journey, all of them should be back to their villages and towns.
So in a way, they see their 'real' homes as just a day or two away.
Could this partly explain why there seem to be little effort on their part to maintain the environment because they don't really consider where they live now as their permanent home?
A Happy Agbogbloshie Story
While at the Agbogbloshie scrapyard some weeks back, a few of the burners asked if I could make up time to drive them around the city.
I had considered this sometime in the past. I wasn’t sure of the psychological damage I may be doing, so sort of backed out.
They asked this time, and I was happy to oblige.
The four I picked up had never heard of the West Hills Mall, one of Ghana’s biggest shopping malls, at Weija, Accra.
Rahim, 27, is an urban miner. Location: Sodom and Gomorrah, Accra, Ghana/ April 2019 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant
Urban miners at Sodom and Gomorrah (Agbogbloshie), Accra, Ghana/ April 2019 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant
They also had not heard of the new terminal 3 of the Kotoka International Airport.
So I drove them to the West Hills Mall to shop, for the first time.
We sat and ate good food, drank whatever we wanted, with the air conditioner blowing in our faces. We were very happy.
We stopped over at the Kotoka International Airport, and drove further around the city.
We had a wonderful time.
I’m in the process of scheduling to pick up another four burners. I’ll continue to do this whenever I can.
If you are in Accra or ever plan to visit, and would like to meet some of the young men in the videos and photos you see around, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would be happy to arrange for you to meet some of them.
See the trip video below:
Note: More than 90% of all the scenes in the videos below were captured with a cell phone, so don't expect Hollywood style of cinema, :-).
A Happy Agbogbloshie Story Film
See more of the urban miners below:
Agbogbloshie - A short film
"Urban mining" and Air Pollution in Accra, Ghana - A short film
Should we expect to see a place such as Agbogbloshie transformed into a large green park with scientists crossing the Korle Lagoon on jet-powered flying segways from their nearby urban innovation labs by 2050?
Please leave your comments below, and let us know what you think!
1. https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/popfacts/PopFacts_2016-1.pdf (Retrieved April, 2019) ↩
2. https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/popfacts/PopFacts_2017-1.pdf (Retrieved April, 2019)↩
3. https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/popfacts/PopFacts_2017-10.pdf (Retrieved April, 2019)↩
4. http://www.fao.org/3/i9553en/i9553en.pdf (Retrieved April, 2019)↩
5. https://www.jstor.org/stable/42003112?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents (Retrieved April, 2019)↩