The population of Africa is unequal


We know the income and wealth distribution across Africa is unequal. That isn’t news. Neither should it be that the population on the continent is highly unequally distributed too. Near zero in the Sahara and Kalahari deserts, but above 500 people per square kilometer on the coast in Nigeria out westward into Ghana and ending in Cote d’Ivore, the Nile Valley in Egypt, around Addis in Ethiopia, and around Lake Victoria.

Pasting the map above with a satellite map from Google makes it easier to see where those hot spots line up with country borders. The yellow in Ethiopia is not just Addis but nearly half of that country. The extra splash of yellow around Nairobi in Kenya. The two maps either misaligned or an error on the density map as Rwanda has a higher density than Burundi.

But beyond the empty spaces and dense spaces is the reality of most of the continent. Large stretches of land with few people. Good for nature, and a challenge when it comes to reaching those people, whether to buy what they are growing/making or to sell them what is made or processed in the cities.

So let’s instead focus on one region full of people, mostly farmers, where the business opportunities due to that high density are absolutely enormous. The area around Lake Victoria. Using Google Maps, zoom in to the border between Uganda and Tanzania, around the shared town of Busia.

From space, you can’t tell forest from farmland. What you’ll find if you drive through this part of the world is that there is very little open space.

Busia is more large town than small city, not the driver of the population density. For that follow along the roads near the border. Whether on the main road, the paved secondary road, or any level of dirt road, you’ll see the same… farm after farm after farm, one atop the other.

Zoom into Google Maps as far as it’ll go, and you’ll see the footpaths between the farms. These are the 1/2-1 acre smallholder farm lands that fill that bright yellow hotspot in the population density map.

Over 100 million smallholder farmers living around Lake Victoria in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, and the same density down into Rwanda and Burundi and Malawi. Highly fertile ground, both literally in terms of food production, as well as figuratively in terms of business opportunities.

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