Africa, a young but ageing continent

Population and Societies

491, July-August 2012

As life expectancy increases and fertility declines, Africa faces the prospect of population ageing. Using recent projections, Valérie Golaz, Laurent Nowik and Muriel Sajoux explain how African demography is likely to evolve between now and 2050, and explore the challenges of ageing on a continent where welfare provision for older adults is very limited.
The countries of Africa have young populations today, but progress in life expectancy and the sharp drop in birth rates will lead to population ageing. This change will be incomparably faster than the slow ageing process observed in developed countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: by 2050, the number of persons aged 60 and over will increase four-fold in Africa, raising yet another social challenge for the continent. At present, old persons in Africa are supported primarily through private solidarity. In the future, it will be increasingly difficult for families to meet the special needs of growing numbers of older
adults unless public policies can provide the necessary backup.

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