Africa has the youngest population of all the continents, and by 2050 it is expected to be home to one billion children—two out of every five children born on earth will be born in Africa.
The median age in African is currently nineteen (by comparison, in North America it’s thirty-five), and this number is decreasing. Excitement abounds for the potential this increasingly younger generation of Africans can bring to their respective countries, but de-ageing of the continent also poses risks that can lead to grave disasters if not proactively addressed.
Urbanization goes hand in hand with this demographic trend. Young people are increasingly making their way from rural parts to the city, hoping to escape from poverty and a lack of resources. By 2050, 1.34 billion Africans are predicted to live in cities. This mass exodus to cities creates a self-destructive cycle as urban planners and city managers struggle to keep up with sudden population growth. Infrastructure is unable to meet the needs of new arrivals, leading to overcrowding and informal settlements. This extends to the economy, which struggles to keep up, creating a new class of unemployed youth who turn to either crime or informal economic activity that cannot be effectively taxed and thus denies governments of revenue needed to develop cities for the needs of its youth.
Meeting these needs will require new tools emerging out of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in particular the use of data analytics providing real-time information on how cities are changing and the specific challenges arising from these shifts. The Islamic Development Bank, a financing institution with fifty-seven shareholding member states, has established a US$500 million fund to provide seed money for start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises in an effort to stimulate economic growth in numerous cities and communities.