Here are 10 surprising facts about Africa that significantly influence aid and development within the continent. These facts about Africa are important to keep in mind when considering Africa within the larger international context. Moreover, these facts can illuminate both the challenges and prospects towards African development.

1. Africa is the second largest continent, both in size and population.

Making up 22% of the world’s total landmass and with 1.1 billion people, Africa is the second most populated continent on the planet. Moreover, Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050. Africa will become the fastest growing continent in the world, population-wise. However, this rapid population growth may not be such a bad thing. In Europe, there are 170 people living per square km; whereas in Africa, there are only 70. Hence, Africa has room to expand and accommodate the upcoming population growth. But in order to accommodate responsibly, much must be done to improve Africa’s infrastructure. Additionally, Africa’s population growth is not coming from an increase in birth rates, but from longer life expectancy. Furthermore, population growth and urbanization are  correlated, just as urbanization and economic growth are. From 1990-2009, Africa’s urban population increased by 114%. During the same period, the world’s urban population increased by only 51%. Sustained population growth will drive urbanization, which will in turn inspire innovation and economic development.

2. Other than Ethiopia and Liberia, all African countries were once colonized by non-African countries.

Africa was divided up in 1884-1885 at the Berlin Conference, which was attended by the UK, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Germany. National borders were determined without knowledge or concern for local boundaries. The main concern of the colonizers was to assume control over populations and gain access to their natural resources, which they would later extract for their own profit. When the nations of Africa became independent from the colonial leaders, many nations were fraught with intense ethnic conflicts as tribes fought for power. This struggle for power oftentimes led to racial or ethnic oppression. Post-colonial powers often used the oppressed for hard labor and seldom educated these subjugated populations. Moreover, these practices contributed to generations of lost human capital.

3. 61% of all Africans live in rural areas

Poverty occurs in both rural and urban areas, but poverty takes on a different characteristic in rural areas. In developing nations, which most of the nations in Africa are, rural populations partake in subsistence farming, only producing enough to feed their immediate family. Without a steady source of income, families cannot contribute to the larger community’s infrastructure development and the community as a whole suffers. This makes access to education, health and other public services difficult if not impossible.

4. There are an estimated 1,500 languages spoken in Africa and over 3000 distinct ethnic groups (tribes)

Of the 1,500 languages spoken in Africa, hundreds of them are at risk of becoming extinct. As urbanization and globalization increasingly become a reality in Africa, many of the distinct ethnic groups are likely to lose their cultural identity and traditions. If globalization were to encourage the preservation of African cultural identity, these cultures could be preserved in museums and archives. However, passing these traditions down by generation and truly preserving them as living entities may not be possible without considerable efforts by the tribes themselves.

5. There are fewer people with internet access in Africa than New York City alone.

The United Nations recently stated that internet access should be an international human right. Without access to the internet, a majority of the world’s citizens cannot learn, share, or spread ideas. The internet plays a key role in how we interact with one another; our impact is magnified by the modern PA system, which is the Internet. Moreover, most of Africa is without internet access. To provide such services would be to create a market where one has never existed. As Africa develops and technology services become more wide-spread, we can expect to empower a generation.

6. The average life expectancy in Africa is 52.5 years, compared to 69.2 in the rest of the world.

The average life expectancy in Africa varies from country to country. Some nations, like Sierra Leone, have a low life expectancy of 47. Whereas other African nations, like Seychelles, have a long lifespan of 74. Although the average African lifespan is below the average world life expectancy, there is hope. The life expectancy in Africa increased by 5% between 2000-2009, compared to merely 3% in the rest of the world.

7. The prevalence of HIV for people 15-49 in Sub-Saharan Africa is 7 times that of the world prevalence.

HIV/AIDs is the most common cause of death in the Sub-Saharan region. Possible reasons for why HIV/AIDs is so much more common include: high rates of poverty, rapid urbanization, genetics, or gender inequality.

8. 90% of all malaria cases occur in Africa. 3,000 children die each day in Africa from malaria.

People who have limited immunity to malaria, such as young children, women, and travelers from out of the area are more susceptible the disease. In addition, lack of access to health care in rural areas makes treatment for malaria more difficult.

9. Merely 42% of the urban population has access to improved sanitation, while only 24% of the rural population does.

In developed countries, like the US and the UK, 100% of the population has access to improved sanitation. In order to provide better access to proper waste disposal systems and clean water, a hefty investment is required by the governments of African nations, or else by the private sector, in the continent’s sanitation infrastructure. Low access to proper sanitation can be a health risk to exposed communities, which can lower one’s expected lifespan.

10. In 21% of Sub-Saharan African Countries, one or two products accounts for at least 75% of total exports.

In most developed nations, a huge strategy towards economic proficiency is to diversify exports. With few exports at their disposal, Sub-Saharan African nations set themselves up for poor economic growth and a potentially stagnant private sector. Diversity in exports can reduce income volatility for countries with large populations in poverty and reduces vulnerability to sharp declines in trade. Diversification increases the potential for generating spillovers. Traditionally, as a country’s average income rises, their exports become more diversified. But to increase average national income, many of these countries require investment in the private sector. Investment in Sub-Saharan African nations, be it through enhanced public education or career services or through corporate foreign direct investment, can raise national average income.

– Kelsey Ziomek

Sources: Facts, About, Traveling Myself, World Bank, World Bank, World Bank, Brookings
Photo: The Guardian

Statistics on Poverty In Sub-Saharan AfricaNearly half the population in Sub-Saharan Africa lives below the international poverty line. Discussed below are five shocking statistics regarding poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Leading Facts on Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. The average life expectancy at birth for someone born in sub-Saharan Africa is 46. This sobering number is due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region. According to UNDP, “a person can hope to live on average only 46 years, or 32 years less than the average life expectancy in countries of advanced human development, with 20 years slashed off of life expectancy due to HIV/AIDS.” Thankfully, HIV death rates are decreasing across sub-Saharan Africa. In Rwanda, AIDS-related mortality rates dropped from 7% to 5% from 2011-2012. Similarly, in Uganda the life expectancy was raised by ten years between 2000 and 2013, from age 46 to age 55. Foreign aid and the distribution of HIV/AIDS medication has played a large role in this reversal.
  2. 48.5% of the population is living on less than $1.25 per day, and 69.9% on less than $2.00 per day. With a little over 910 million people living in the region, this places around 637 million Africans below the poverty line. The good news is that poverty rates are steadily declining in almost all of the countries in the region. In 2011, the head of the Africa World Economic Forum Katherine Tweedie stated that “10 fastest-growing economies will come from sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years.” In 1981, the poor in this region accounted for 50% of the world’s poor population. Today, they account for one third of the world’s poor population. Although one third is still a significant number, it is considerably less daunting than the numbers from a few decades ago.
  3. HIV/AIDS is the #1 killer in sub-Saharan Africa. UNAIDS estimates that 2 million Africans perish each year from the disease. 70% of these African HIV/AIDS deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa. The region also lays claim to 90% of new HIV infections in children. In Namibia alone, 15,000 people die every year from the disease.
  4. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the poorest country in Africa and the second poorest country in the world, with almost 88% of the population living on less than $1.25 a day. With a population of 65.7 million people, 88% is an unnerving statistic. Children are severely malnourished (rates have reached 30% in certain areas) and many die due to these adverse conditions. In fact, children account for almost 50% of deaths in the country. If any country in Africa deserves aid from the United States, it is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  5. The majority of poor people in the region live in rural areas. Due to a decline in agricultural assistance, the rural sectors of sub-Saharan African nations are hotbeds of extreme poverty. Much of the land is very dry, making it difficult for farmers to grow food for sustenance. Luckily, efforts are being made by the UNDP to foster the development of sustainable agriculture in these areas. In Lesotho, reform actually came from the government when King Letsie III introduced sustainable farming to his people.

– Josh Forgét

Sources: The World Bank, The New Times, Farmers Weekly, The National, Rural Poverty Portal, World Concern
Photo: City Data


Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama is a holy figure within Tibetan Buddhism and an ardent advocate for Tibetan independence from China. Discussed below are interesting facts about the current Dalai Lama and his life.

Top 5 Facts About the Dalai Lama


  1. The Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso was born Lhamo Dhondup on July 6, 1935 to a peasant family in northeastern Tibet. He was found by Tibetan monks at age two and passed all tests and had the physical traits of the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. He took the throne at age 4 at an enthronement ceremony in Lhasa, Tibet and became a monk at age 6.
  2. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his work advocating nonviolent means to free Tibet from China. He has lived in India in exile since 1959 when the Chinese Army eliminated an uprising in Tibet.
  3. He has a variety of hobbies. His favorite activities include meditating, gardening, and repairing watches.
  4. He is said to be a manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion who has chosen to reincarnate to serve the people. The current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso is is the 74th manifestation of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva. Tibetans refer to him as Yeshe Norbu, the Wish-fulfilling Gem, or Kundun, meaning The Presence.
  5. He has continuously emphasized his desire to see Tibet democratized. He has publicly declared that once the Tibetans are capable of achieving independence from the Chinese government, he will not hold political office, choosing instead to remain as a purely religious figure despite his current status as the Tibetan Head of State and Government. He wishes to continue to travel and spread his message of religious and cultural tolerance and peace.

– Caitlin Zusy

Sources: US News, CNN
Photo: Vagabond

According to the World Food Program, there are 870 million people that are living with chronic hunger worldwide. The estimated cost of feeding those people is USD 30 billion, a fraction of what the United States allots to the Military and War budgets. While there has been tremendous progress in reducing hunger worldwide, today one in eight people do not get enough food to lead a healthy, active life.

Malnutrition is the number one health risk across the globe, but it is entirely preventable. Listed below are five ways to reduce poverty and help eradicate malnutrition and chronic hunger.

1. Donate to a cause or organization that will make a difference.

2. Learn the facts, spread the word, and build buzz. The more people that are involved and dedicated to ending world hunger, the better. Great sites to surf for facts are UNICEF, USAID and WFP and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

3. Call or write to Congress! A phone call or letter to state representatives and congressmen can persuade them to support bills that will protect and reduce hunger around the world. Learn how to contact state leaders at The Borgen Project.

4. Volunteer. Whether you have the time or the money, volunteering is a great way to fight the good fight and end world hunger.

5. Fundraise! Hold a garage sale, a non-event or start a fundraising website to generate awareness and funds.

– Kira Maixner
Source: WFP, The Borgen Project
Photo: SCH

Poverty in Ethiopia Poor Facts
Poverty in Ethiopia remains a major concern, but the country has also seen great progress. Ethiopia has the second largest population of all African countries and has only once, for a brief period of time, been colonized. One of Africa’s oldest independent countries, Ethiopia has a rich culture and long history. However, it is currently considered one of Africa’s poorest countries despite a rapid population boom in recent decades. Read how Ethiopia reduced poverty.


10 Key Facts on Poverty in Ethiopia


  1. Ethiopia is located in East Africa and is historically a rich country.
  2. Agriculture accounts for more than half of its economy, and employs 80% of its population.
  3. With an estimated population of 86 million people, 78% of Ethiopians struggle with an income below US$2 a day.
  4. The life expectancy of the average Ethiopian was 59 years old in 2011.
  5. The State Health expenditure is approximately $3 per person in Ethiopia.
  6. For every 1,000 children five years old and younger, there are 166 deaths.
  7. Preventable diseases, including Malaria, account for at least 60% of health problems in the country.
  8. Approximately 34% of the rural population in Ethiopia has access to an improved water source.
  9. Ethiopia’s main exports are coffee, hides, oilseeds, beeswax and sugarcane. Ethiopia’s main source of income comes from its agricultural economy that is often affected by drought.
  10. Almost two-thirds of its people are illiterate.

– Kira Maixner


Source: The World Bank , Merlin USA , BBC
Photo: World Vision

1. Donate
2. Email Congress
3. Volunteer


Energy Poverty
Energy poverty is an issue that is little known by people around the world. Many people assume that poverty only means lacking money or food, but it also means cooking and living with very primitive energy sources, which could be even deadlier than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. If nothing is done by 2030 about the energy poverty crisis, 4,000 people could die each day of the toxic smoke and fires from primitive, unsafe stoves. Also, there are a few surprising facts about energy poverty that many people may not know.

1. There has been a tremendous amount of progress in delivering safe energy to people who need it, but it makes little difference. From 1990 to 2010, 1.7 billion gained access to electricity, and an additional 1.6 billion gained cleaner cooking fuels. But because the population grew by 1.6 billion during those years, there were still billions without safe energy.

2. It’s the quickly-developing countries that have the biggest energy problem. India is the fastest country to get her people access to electricity, and China has the most efficient energy on the planet, yet both countries have millions of people without electricity and other forms of safe energy.

3. About 3.5 million people each year die from indoor pollution caused by the smoke when cooking on wood and biomass cookstoves. Cookstove smoke is considered by some to be the largest environmental threat because it kills more than malaria (1.2 million) and HIV/AIDS (1.5 million) each year.

4. Countries with the most energy have people with the least. Nigeria produces the highest quantity of oil in Africa, yet it has the second highest number of people without safe energy in the world (behind India).

5. Renewable resources are currently not enough to provide safe energy across the world. The UN’s Sustainable Energy For All programs rely on creating more energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, to provide energy without polluting the earth, but renewable energy only accounts for less than 1% of the world’s energy consumption.

Katie Brockman

Source National Geographic, National Geographic


10 Facts You Should Know About the Nobel Peace Prize
It is a prize that is both coveted and renowned worldwide. As the date of announcement grows closer, here are ten facts to know about the Nobel Peace Prize.

  1. This year the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced at 11:00 AM on October 9, 2013 by Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
  2. Every year, the Nobel Prize (including the Peace Prize) is awarded in Oslo, Norway and administered by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace.
  3. There is a 50 Year Secrecy Rule in regard to the prize nominees and the grounds they were selected. The Committee does not announce the names of nominees to either the media or the candidates themselves.
  4. Since 1901, the Prize has been awarded 93 times to 124 laureates. It was not awarded on 19 occasions: in 1914-1918, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1939- 1943, 1948, 1955-1956, 1966-1967 and 1972.
  5. The 2011 Prize was awarded jointly to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.
  6. Of the 100 individuals awarded the the Prize, 15 are women. The first time a the prize was awarded to a woman was in 1905, to Bertha von Suttner.
  7. The work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been honored the most – three times – by a Nobel Peace Prize.
  8. The Vietnamese politician Le Duc Tho, awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, is the only person who has declined the Prize. They were both awarded the Prize for negotiating the Vietnam peace accord. Le Doc Tho said that he was not in a position to accept the Nobel Prize, citing the situation in Vietnam as his reason.
  9. The oldest Prize Laureate to date is Joseph Rotblat, who was 87 years old when he was awarded in 1995.
  10. To date, the youngest Prize Laureate is Tawakkol Karman, 32 years old when awarded the 2011 Peace Prize.

– Kira Maixner
Source: Nobel Prize
Photo: Essence