We all know the figures: the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, and even more if the recent trend towards lower school enrolment rates for girls continues. Most of this population will live in developing countries (87% vs. 77% in 2022), in cities (68% vs. 55% in 2022); they will be aged between 15 and 64 (63% vs. 65% in 2022) with an average life expectancy of 76.8 years (vs. 72.8 in 2022). There will be 2.5 billion Africans and 1.7 billion Indians. 5 out of the 8 countries accounting for half the world’s population growth will be African: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria, which at the current pace will have 790 million inhabitants in 2100, with a city, Lagos, of 100 million inhabitants. The average age in Africa will be 17, compared with 42 in Europe, and even higher in Japan, South Korea and Germany. The number of over-80s will have tripled, from 150 to 450 million.

For the moment, less than 0.1% of the African population emigrates from Africa each year, and sub-Saharan Africans, who today represent 10 million people in Europe, compared with one million in 1960, still account for only 10% of the world’s migrants.

In 2050, whether we like it or not, we will be witnessing a demographic game of communicating vessels due to climate, food, political and religious problems. More than 400 million people will have chosen to live on a continent other than the one on which they were born. Many more will be those who have moved within their own continent, from countryside to city, from country to country.

Today, migrations are tragedies for those forced into exile, and for the countries they leave behind, which are deprived of an essential part of their youth. They also cause tensions in countries that are reluctant to welcome and integrate them.

If poorly managed, migrations will lead to conflict, bring the far right to power in many countries, and shatter hundreds of millions of lives. On the contrary, if migrations were well managed and were organized in a human way, if migrants were trained and decently integrated into their host countries to protect their cultural identity, these population movements would benefit all. They would lighten the financial burden of emerging countries, providing them with the transferred part of the wages earned by migrants in the North, and they would provide the countries of the North with skilled and unskilled labor, to compensate for their demographic collapse, and to finance their pay-as-you-go pensions.

On this subject, as on so many others, humanity would still need to organize itself globally, understand that it is in its own interest to be altruistic, that it has everything to gain by feeding off the cultures of others, and never forget this Japanese proverb: “When you’re at home, think of the traveler. When you travel, think at the local”.


Image: Angelo Tomassi, Gli emigranti, 1896.