Nigeria: Growing by Leaps and Bounds

Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, is forecast to see its population increase at a remarkably high rate in coming decades. We wonder: In terms of population size, which entire region of the world will Nigeria overtake by 2100?

A. North Africa
B. North America
C. Europe
D. All of the above

A. North Africa is correct.

Nigeria’s population currently totals 182 million. The UN Population Division projects that this number will more than quadruple in size — to 752 million — by 2100.

The increase in Nigeria’s population alone — amounting to 570 million people — will be 26% larger than the entire population that North Africa is projected to have in 2100 (452 million). Today, Nigeria has about 42 million fewer inhabitants than North Africa, a region consisting of seven nations or territories (Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco and Western Sahara).

The largest of those nations, Egypt, currently has a population of 92 million, just about half of Nigeria’s population. By 2100, Egypt’s population is expected to reach 201 million — an increase of 118%. Over the same period, Nigeria’s population will increase by 313%.

Africa’s population as a whole is projected to grow very rapidly in the coming 85 years, from 1.2 billion today to 4.4 billion people in 2100 — an increase of 266%.

At the end of the current century, Africa’s population will be equal to the total world population back in 1980. By 2100, Africa will — if UN projections bear out — account for almost 40% of the world’s 11.2 billion population.

B. North America is also correct.

In 2100, Nigeria’s population will exceed that of North America by 400 million people. In contrast, the combined population of the United States and Canada today — at 358 million — is nearly twice Nigeria’s population of 182 million. (The UN’s regional definitions place Mexico — with its population of 127 million — in Latin America rather than in North America.)

The population of the United States is expected to grow from 321 million today to 450 million by 2100 — an increase of 129 million (or 40%). Over the same period, the growth in Nigeria’s population alone — at 570 million — will be almost 30% larger than the entire U.S. population in 2100. For every additional American, there will be 4.4 additional Nigerians.

Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass the U.S. population sometime in the late-2040s.

However, Nigeria is not forecast to exceed Asia’s population. Despite a falling population in China, Asia’s overall population is projected to rise from 4.4 billion today to 4.9 billion in 2100, an increase of 11%.

But while Asia will retain its status as the most populous region, Africa is catching up. Today, Africa’s population is one-quarter the size of Asia’s. By 2100, Africa will have a population that is just 10% smaller than Asia’s.

C. Europe is also correct.

Nigeria’s population is currently only one-quarter the size of Europe’s 738 million people. But by 2100, Nigeria’s population of 752 million will exceed Europe’s by about 107 million. (Europe, as defined geographically by the United Nations, consists of 48 countries and territories, stretching from Iceland to Russia.)

The growth in Nigeria’s population over the rest of this century alone — at 570 million — exceeds the combined populations of Europe’s 13 largest countries. They are Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and the Czech Republic.

Among all world regions, Europe’s total population is currently exceeded only by Asia (4.4 billion) and Africa (1.2 billion). But while the populations of Asia and Africa will grow larger over the remainder of the century, Europe’s population will actually drop.

By 2100, Europe’s population is expected to fall to 645 million — about 93 million fewer people than today. It is the only major region expected to lose population over the course of this century.

And even though Asia’s population is growing, the region’s most-populous nation today — China — is also shedding population. Over the next eight and a half decades, China’s population is expected to shrink by 372 million, or four times the number that Europe will lose.

D. All of the above is correct.

By 2100, Nigeria will have a larger population than either North Africa, North America, Europe or Latin America and the Caribbean. And this is true even though the United Nations has recently trimmed its forecast for Nigeria’s future population growth.

In 2012, the UN projected that Nigeria’s population would reach 914 million by the end of the century. Its 2015 forecast of 752 million is lower by 162 million, which is roughly equal to the current population of Bangladesh, the world’s eighth-most-populous country. This lowered projection is based on the country’s fertility rate having fallen more rapidly than expected.

In the earlier projection, the UN had expected Nigeria’s fertility to remain above six children per woman during the early decades of the 21st century. It has actually fallen to 5.74 in recent years. This quicker initial drop in the fertility rate, sustained over the next 85 years, will have massive repercussions for Nigeria’s population total over the long term.

For the African continent as a whole, however, fertility rates are expected to fall less quickly than previously estimated. This means that Africa’s 2100 population is now forecast to reach nearly 4.4 billion, or about 200 million more than the UN’s 2012 forecast.

Nigeria will jump from being the world’s seventh most-populous country today to its third most-populous country in 2100 (behind India and China). And while Nigeria is the only African nation among the top 10 today, it will be one of five in 2100.

Additional data for editors (PDF)

Word count: 928