Five Facts on Africa’s Population Explosion

Thanks to Learning Life researcher, Derrick Costa, for helping to draft these five facts.  

1) Earth: 7.2 Billion, and Rising
The world’s population growth rate has been declining for decades, but the actual number of people on Earth is still rising rapidly. The Earth currently has over 7.2 billion people, up from 2.5 billion in 1950, and it is expected to rise to 9.7 by 2050.

2) Africa: 1.1 Billion, and Rising Fastest
Africa’s current population is more than 1.1 billion people, up from 229 million in 1950, and it is expected to more than double to 2.4 billion by 2050. With the total African population growing at more than 2% per year, Africa has the highest population growth rate of any continent on Earth.

3) One Quarter of the World’s Children
More than a quarter of the world’s people (2.2. billion) are children under 18 years of age. Nearly one quarter of the world’s children live in Africa.

4) 9 in 10 Children Born Poorer
Nine out of ten African children are born in low-income and lower-middle income countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Liberia and Burundi. Three in ten African children are born in fragile and conflict-affected nations. According to the World Bank, 20 of the world’s 34 countries suffering conflict and fragile economies are African.

5) Majority Urban by late 2030s
Africa’s longstanding rural image is quickly disappearing. In 1950, 14% of Africans lived in urban areas. By 1980, 27% did. Today, 40% do. By the late 2030s, Africa is set to become majority urban for the first time in its history.


Population Reference Bureau. “2014 World Population Data Sheet.”

UNICEF. “Generation 2030 / Africa.”

Wikipedia. “List of continents by population.”

Good News about Learning Life

Since our annual report in December, we have two exciting growth updates to announce in case you didn’t catch them on our social media pages:

  1. On Learning Life’s website, we now exceed 4,000 unique visitors per month.
  2. On our Facebook page, we have passed the 10,000 likes threshold.

In addition, our partner in metro Washington D.C., Signia Surfaces:

  1. Has established partnerships with four effective local nonprofits, and is working to promote them free on napkins in D.C. eateries. Learn about each of these nonprofits here.
  2. Is developing an initiative that will put metro D.C. artists, writers and scientists on coasters at D.C. eateries and events. Learn more about this initiative here.

Paul LachelierLearning Life and Signia Surfaces share the same purpose to use surfaces to spread knowledge. While Learning Life focuses on spreading knowledge on electronic surfaces, through its website and social media pages, Signia Surfaces is pursuing the above initiatives on ad-funded napkins and coasters locally in metro D.C. If you like what they are doing, here are three simple ways you can help:

  1. Like Signia Surfaces’ Facebook page. This is both an easy way to show your support, and to keep up with the latest news. Please invite your Facebook friends in metro D.C. to like Signia Surfaces too, and if you’re on Linkedin, please connect with Signia Surfaces there.
  2. Donate to Learning Life. Signia Surfaces is designed to bring in its own revenue through advertising, but Learning Life relies largely on individual donors. Your donation helps Learning Life produce and spread our free educational content. If you can donate, please consider becoming a sustainer: sustainers help us develop a more regular base of funding by giving a tax-deductible amount (e.g., $5, $10, $25, $50, $100) monthly that’s automatically deducted from your credit card or checking account.
  3. Subscribe to our Metro D.C. Weekly Learn. If you live in the Washington D.C. metro area, subscribe to Learning Life’s free Metro D.C. Weekly Learn, which offers interesting facts on the politics, economics, history, people and organizations that shape metro D.C.

Learning Life is excited to be working with Signia Surfaces, and looks forward to growing together online and locally in D.C. in 2015!

Paul Lachelier, Ph.D.
Founder, Learning Life

Volunteer Spotlight: Michelle Vergara

Michelle Vergara grew up in Florida, studied behavioral economics at Stetson University, then moved to Washington D.C., whereupon she began volunteering with Learning Life in the summer of 2014.  Michelle and Learning Life founder, Paul Lachelier, overlapped at Stetson University over two years, but never met there.  Nonetheless, Paul and the rest of the Learning Life team are very happy to have Michelle on board as she ably helps us with planning, analysis and marketing.  Michelle kindly took a little time out of her schedule to answer the following questions about her.      

Thanks to Learning Life writer, Craig Gusmann, for help with editing Michelle’s profile.  

Where were you born?

Manila, Philippines

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I was an avid reader as a child, so I wanted to be a creative writer with the dreams of one day writing the novels that I loved reading. As I grew older (and more disenchanted) I realized I also wanted to make enough money to eat everyday and so I pivoted my ambitions to be a journalist.

Michelle VergaraWhat is your current occupation?

I’m a Sales and Marketing Associate at the Advisory Board Company.

What are your hobbies?

I like reading, museum-hopping, attending the finest and cheapest comedy shows and concerts that DC has to offer.

Do you have any secret talents?

In college, my main mode of transportation was via longboard. I used to be a huge longboard fan until I broke my wrist my freshman year. The longboard traffic also increased as frat boys also picked it up, and so I just avoided it altogether.

What talents or skills do you wish you had or hope to someday learn?

Bartending and making craft cocktails

What is your fondest childhood memory?

My favorite childhood memory was having sleepovers at my friend’s house. Her dad is an architect and her house was designed to have lofts and spiral staircases leading to multiple levels of the house. I was young, so I never really knew how big it was, but her house seemed like an endless adventure to me.

What is your dream vacation?

A jaunt across countries in Southeast Asia like Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. And then a pit stop in Hawaii.

Are there any other interesting tidbits about yourself you would like to share?

I graduated from Stetson University (same university where Paul worked as a sociology prof), where I graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Behavioral Economics. I was the commencement speaker for the class of 2014, and while I can’t remember what I talked about to save my life, I’m sure there’s a video of me floating around somewhere. I currently live in Rosslyn, down the street from the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Netherlands Carilion. The first time I was in DC was a field trip my junior year in high school and I absolutely fell in love with the place. I loved the Metro system and how everyone was running all the time. I came back for a semester program at American University and I can proudly say that I now live and work in the DMV full-time.

What do you want to become in life?

I’m at the inevitable crossroads in my 20’s where I don’t really know what I want to be in life and I’m just trusting myself and the universe to know it when I see it. Right now, I work at the Advisory Board Company where I’m looking to work either as a business analyst or dedicated advisor in the higher education field. But in the long-term, I would like go back to school for an advanced degree in economics or business.

Why did you choose to volunteer with Learning Life?

I chose to work with Learning Life because it marries my two interests in start ups and education.


Five Facts on Boko Haram

Boko Haram is currently one of the most violent Islamist organizations in the world.  Operating in Nigeria, Boko Haram has abducted hundreds of people, killed thousands (including many civilians), destroyed schools and villages, and attacked the Nigerian media, military, government and international targets, like the United Nations.  As awareness of Boko Haram grows, Learning Life offers the following facts to better understand the group and its context.

1) Name

Boko Haram’s full name is Group of the Sunni People for the Calling and Jihad (“Jama‘atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da‘awati wal-Jihad”). The name “Boko Haram” means “Western education is forbidden.”   (Boko, from colonial English, means “book.”)  That shorter name was created by neighbors of Boko Haram’s mosque in Maiduguri, a city in northeastern Nigeria.

2) Objectives

Boko Haram seeks to create an Islamic state ruled by sharia law in Nigeria.  The group considers the Nigerian government and the nation’s Islamic religious establishment corrupt, false Muslims.

3) Origins

Some sources trace the origins of Boko Haram back to the 1990s.  In 2002, Boko Haram (not then known as Boko Haram) followers — some of whom were the sons of wealthy elites in northeastern Nigeria — left the city of Maiduguri to separate themselves from what they saw as a corrupt government and Islamic religious establishment.  They formed a separatist community based on hardline Islamic law, and eventually clashed with police, leading to the killing of most of their members, including their leader, Mohammed Ali, in early 2004.

The survivors eventually returned to Maiduguri, building a new mosque and expanding their membership.  They clashed again with Nigerian police in 2009, leading to even more violent and widespread government reprisals and the death of their leader, Mohammed Yusuf.  Boko Haram survivors escaped, but returned to attack Maiduguri in 2010, and have since proliferated their attacks.

4) Nigerian History

After more than 150 years of British influence and direct rule, Nigeria gained its independence in 1960.  A bloody civil war marked by ethnic tensions, then a series of military dictatorships followed, until the establishment of democracy in 1999.  Half of Nigerians identify as Muslims — mostly Sunni, with many living in northern Nigeria — while most of the other half identify as Christians, mostly Protestant due in part to the legacy of British rule.

Nigeria’s population grew rapidly in the 20th century, tripling between the 1970s and 2000s.  Nigeria is now the most populous nation in Africa, and the 7th most populous nation in the world.  Nigeria is also rich in oil, and a major supplier of oil to the world, but that wealth has not spread equitably, enriching some, and embittering many — including Muslim radicals — who view the Nigerian government as corrupt and repressive.

5) “Foreign Terrorist Organization”

On November 13, 2013, the U.S. Department of State announced the designation of Boko Haram as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.”  A FTO designation allows the United States to support foreign countries in their fight against the FTO, pursue those who assist the organization, and spread awareness internationally of the organization as a terrorist group.  Click here for a list of the dozens of organizations worldwide that the U.S. has labeled as FTOs since 1997.

Sources for the above facts