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People of Africa


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In 2008, 955 million people—or about 13 percent of the world's population—lived in Africa. The most populous countries are Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Distribution of the population is highly uneven. Some parts of the continent, particularly the vast Sahara, have few permanent residents. Others rank among the world’s most densely populated areas, notably the Nile Valley of Egypt; the Atlantic coastal stretch from Cote d’Ivoire to Cameroon; Rwanda; Burundi; and South Africa’s province of KwaZulu-Natal. Overall, Africa’s population density was 32 persons per sq km (83 persons per sq mi) in 2008.

Until the mid-20th century census-taking was rare in Africa. Although most African countries have by now conducted at least several counts of their populations, reliable data on vital statistics are limited. Nonetheless, it is clear that Africa’s population has grown rapidly in recent decades. The continent-wide population growth rate peaked at 3.43 percent in 1979 and remained relatively high through the 1980s, averaging 2.69 percent. Rates have lowered since. In 2005 Africa’s growth rate was 2.08 percent, which is still high compared to other continents. In general, West, East, and Central Africa have experienced the fastest growth and North and southern Africa the slowest.

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