the real world today

Predicting population and initiative

Fernandez-Armesto’s first projection was that the world’s population would be contained. Was this projection, made twenty years ago, correct?

The United Nations Population Division has published its World Poulation Prospects: 2015 Revision, which contains the latest information on population worldwide, and projections to 2100 (

World population has reached 7.3 billion, and has increased by approximately one billion over the last twelve years. World population is projected to grow to 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100. So over the next 85 years population will increase by more than 53%, not really containment.

However, the annual rate of population growth will slow from approximately 1.3 % in 2000 to barely 0.1% in 2100. This is successful containment since by the end of the century the United Nations projects close to a steady-state population.

Most of the population growth over the next 85 years will occur in Africa. Higher fertility underlies this growth, but the rate of growth is projected to fall most in Africa with smaller family sizes. Old Europe is already at zero population growth, and is expected to see population decline for the rest of the century, falling from 738 million in 2015 to 646 million in 2100. Africa by contrast will rise from 1.186 billion to 4.387 billion over the century. Asia and Latin America will decline from mid century. By 2100 Africa’s population will be nearly 90% of Asia’s population, compared to 27% today. Good old Oceania will increase from 39 to 71 million.

While there is uncertainty in these projections, a fair verdict is that Fernandez-Armesto got this one right. And perhaps we all need to ditch the mindless rhetoric of the Asian century, and start talking about the African Century. Will this continent, informed by new institutions and approaches to human development, be the region of greatest initiative in combination with the great economic powerhouses of India and China? Australia needs to see itself as a great trading island nation of the Indo-Pacific.

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