Africa is home to the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population, burgeoning cities, and bold innovations in everything from fintech to clean energy. With its population expected to nearly double to 2.5 billion people by 2050, the continent presents myriad opportunities for robust, inclusive growth that harness its rich natural resources and abundant human potential to increase prosperity not only in Africa but around the world.
These strengths and assets present a chance for the continent to vastly improve its productivity and reverse the economic deceleration it endured from 2010 to 2019. GDP growth fell 35 percent over that period—and then the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Those events set off shifts that are still working their way through the global economy. Today, 60 percent of Africa’s population lives in poverty, the result of per capita income growth that has averaged just 1.1 percent a year for the past several decades.
Yet the continent-wide statistics obscure successes in many of its constituent countries that can serve as models to establish productivity as the foundation of Africa’s economic growth. Over the past decade, certain countries, cities, sectors, and companies have been beacons of innovation, productivity, and growth—there is no “one Africa.” In those beacons lie lessons and innovations that can reinvigorate the African economy. Our new research indicates that abundant growth and development are still possible in Africa, still happening—and, more than ever, vital for the welfare of the world.
Improving and increasing the productivity of all sectors must power Africa’s economic growth going forward. The continent is blessed with a young and vibrant population, rich natural resources, thriving cities, and emerging innovations, all assets that can be enlisted to enhance output and add value. Successes achieved at granular levels in countries, cities, and sectors offer models to reaccelerate growth. Increasing digitization, developing talent, collaborating more regionally, supporting more business champions, and building green businesses are just some of the ways Africa can increase productivity. The world needs a thriving Africa to make the transition to net zero, lessen the emerging impact of demographic decline, and give the continent its rightful place in global commerce and trade. Achieving sustainable growth from a foundation of strong productivity will increase African resilience and spread well-being and prosperity across the continent.