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Africa has a rapidly growing population of 500 million people, yet 75% of the continent is sparsely inhabited. Most people still live a traditional rural lifestyle, though many Africans move to cities in search of employment. Most people live where water is available, in the Nile Valley, the coasts of North and West Africa, along the Niger, in the eastern highlands, and in South Africa.

With the highest birthrate of any continent, Africa is projected to grow to two billion by 2050. Women in sub-Saharan Africa bear an average of 6 children each. Life expectancy is low (Sierra Leone: 34 years, Zambia: 37 years, other countries: 40–49 years) compared to the developed countries.

The fastest growing region on earth, Africa faces the most serious shortages of food and water.

North African population map
population legend South African population map

Political instability and the lack of infrastructure make distribution of supplies difficult. Since the 1960s most countries have seen improvements in life expectancy, health care, and education. However, the continent lies well behind the rest of the world in many basic human needs.

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