I recently read an article about world population growth that has finally registered in my dense mind. It pointed out that world population has more than doubled during my career while I’ve been busy doing other things, although I have noticed an increase in traffic.
Currently, world population is a bit over 7 billion people and is projected to reach over 9 billion by 2050. That’s 2 billion more, a nearly 30% increase in 33 years. For those of you under about age 45, that will happen while you’re still working, given trends in retirement age.
Most of this population growth will occur in the developing world, 90% in Asia and Africa, rather than in the developed world where population is actually declining slightly. This puts the focus on the developing world infrastructure, resources, food, health care, education, and cities.
60-70% of the growth will occur in cities. World population density is around 130 people per square mile; it will increase to over 170 with a minimal increase in land, maybe even a decrease due to sea level rise from global warming. Singapore and Hong Kong have over 20,000 people per square mile. Love thy neighbor will take on a whole new meaning.
Nearly half of all countries have water scarcity that hampers economic development, human health, and well-being. Delivering clean, safe, reliable and inexpensive water is an obvious business and career opportunity.
As people attempt to improve their standard of living, per capita energy consumption will more than double. The use of fossil fuel may be peaking about now, non-fossil fuel usage will be over 50% by 2050, or sooner with your help.
There will be more than a 30% increase in trash and human waste. As the old joke goes, there’s a pony somewhere in that pile of manure.
Estimates are that over 100 million people are completely homeless worldwide. Over 1.6 billion people have inadequate housing with no water, sanitation or drainage. Governments generally don’t have the will to fix the problem so virtually all attempts to build housing are made by the people themselves or at best, local community groups. Again, an opportunity for innovation in the real estate, architecture, design, financing, and construction sectors.
Food. The world produces enough food to eliminate hunger (“Enough: why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty” Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, New York: Public Affairs, 2010), and new technologies promise even more abundance. Yet, 795 million people are chronically hungry, 1/9 of the world’s population, 98% in developing countries, causing 9 million deaths per year. Again, governments are not solving this unforgivable problem, NGOs are overwhelmed, entrepreneurs and enlightened businesses must step up.
70% of the world population, over 5 billion people will likely be using smartphones by 2026, 90% of everyone over age 6, more by 2050. And the world will have 26 billion connected devices. The “second billion” will be on the internet, mainly attracted by games, videos, and sports. More people will have phones than electricity. The next billionaires are already identifying opportunities here, are you?
If you’re not engaged in dealing with the challenges outlined above, you will probably be taking care of the aging baby boomers with their health issues and care needs.
Governments and NGOs have not addressed these challenges, large corporations rarely see the opportunity to do well by doing good. The silver lining in this huge population cloud is that when there is a real need, entrepreneurs will meet it.