New factbook charts Africa's human development trends

Posted: 29 October 2009

If current population and consumption trends continue, Africa's Ecological Footprint will exceed its biocapacity within the next twenty years, while a number of countries, including Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania, are set to reach that threshold in less than five years, according to a report issued today by Global Footprint Network and key partners.

The Africa Factbook 2009 reveals that while Africa's population grew from 287 million to 902 million people between 1961 and 2005, the amount of biocapacity (food, fibre and timber resources that are renewably available) per person decreased by 67 per cent during this same time period.

Though this is reflective of a global trend, it is particularly alarming for Africa, whose countries contain 12 per cent of the world biocapacity, and whose population often suffers first and most tragically when humanity's demand on nature exceeds what nature can renewably provide. As the world's nations continue to deplete their own resources, demand on Africa's raw materials continues to grow. Population growth and the impacts of climate change on crop production are exacerbating these pressures.

Africa ecological footprint and biocapacity 1960-2005
Africa ecological footprint and biocapacity 1960-2005

"Development that ignores the limits of our natural resources ultimately ends up imposing disproportionate costs on the most vulnerable" said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. He noted that Africa is a region where ecological deficits can translate most directly into resource conflicts and shortages of food, fuel and other basic necessities for survival.

The Africa Factbook 2009 reports key indicators on human development, economic and ecological performance. Data on 24 different countries across the continent are included, along with guest essays by local representatives exploring on-the-ground challenges in each country. The Factbook is a culmination of research by Global Footprint Network, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and local experts, and is published in partnership with UNESCO, the Development Cooperation Directorate of the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fr Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ).

The Africa Factbook can be downloaded here (PDF).