Visualizing Africa’s Population Density Patterns

Africa’s population density patterns have been visualized using data from the Gridded Population of the World dataset provided by The Center for International Earth Science Information Network.

Visualizing Africa's Population Density Patterns 1

Africa, the second-largest continent in the world, is home to over 1.4 billion people and is made up of more than 30 million km². It is also home to the world’s largest desert and second-largest tropical rainforest.

Pallavi Rao and Nick Routley of Visual Capitalist lay out the patterns of population density across the continent in this infographic. It’s a perfect illustration of how people gather around freshwater sources and the borders of natural barriers.

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The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), which is hosted by NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), produced the Gridded Population of the World dataset, which is the source of this population density data.

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Ranked: Most Populous African Countries

Nigeria, the most populous and economically significant country in Africa, is home to about 220 million people from 250 different ethnic groups who speak more than 500 different languages.

And the country is still expanding. Nigeria is predicted to have around 800 million citizens by 2100, more than three times its current population, making it the second most populous nation in the world.

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Ethiopia is the second most populated country on the continent, located on its eastern edge. In contrast to Nigeria, which boasts nearly 20 cities with a population of at least 500,000, over 75% of Ethiopia’s 127 million inhabitants remain in rural areas.

Egypt, with a population of 112. million is the only nation in North Africa to be ranked in the top five. With 102 million people, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ranks fourth, and Tanzania (67 million) completes the top five.

Ranked: Fastest Growing African Countries By Population

Africa was home to 9% of the world’s population in 1900. Its current proportion is very nearly 18%. According to projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), one in four people on Earth will reside in Africa by 2025, and the continent’s demographic shift has the potential to “transform the world.”

Of course, the most populous African nations—the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Egypt—will account for the majority of this increase, but other nations on the continent are also experiencing comparatively quick population growth.

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The population of South Sudan, the newest nation on Earth, is increasing at a rate of about 5% annually. In contrast, the population of Sub-Saharan Africa is expanding at a rate of half that. In addition to a greater fertility rate, the nation is witnessing a surge in the number of refugees fleeing conflict zones in neighboring Sudan.

While no other country in Africa is growing its population at precisely the same rate as South Sudan, some of the continent’s poorer economies—Niger, Burundi, and Chad, for example—are reporting yearly population growth rates of more than 3%.

Ranked: Most Populous African Cities

Africa has a lower urbanization rate than the rest of the world, at roughly half. The combined population of the top ten cities on the continent is over 115 million, which is more than 1.5 times the total population of the United Kingdom.

Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is the largest metropolis in Africa with a population of over 22 million and was constructed along the banks of the Nile. Even though it has been a major hub for trade between continents for over 1,400 years, this thriving metropolis is nevertheless relatively new to Egypt.

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Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria, is located near the Atlantic coast in the south, across the Sahara desert, and home to little over 21 million people. The city’s original Yoruba name, “Eko,” originally meant “lake,” and this is where the name of the lagoons that encircle it originates. Because Lagos is divided into multiple administrative areas and is expected to see 2,000 new people every day, population figures for the city are sometimes contested.

With over 15 million inhabitants, Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is ranked third globally. By 2050, it is expected to rise to the rank of fourth with 35 million persons.

The next two most populated African cities are Luanda, Angola, with 9 million people, and Johannesburg, South Africa, with 15 million.

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