AFD’s Atlas of Africa: Viewing the Continent from a New Angle

published on 16 September 2020
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More than 100 new maps and graphs bring to life an unprecedented amount of data in the form of a 128-page “Atlas of Africa.” It breaks down crucial development issues facing the continent today, including progress made towards fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals. Still little known to the outside world, Africa has undergone a series of profound social, economic and environmental change. And with the continent expected to host close to a third of the world’s population in a generation, it’s a chance to take stock and look at Africa from a new angle.

With about 60% of the population aged under 25, Africa is the youngest continent in the world. And yet despite its dynamism – with a large and growing number of start-ups – Africa is often held back by divisions. On top of the largely artificial regional divisions between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, are divisions between Arabic-speaking and French-speaking regions, to say nothing of the vast physical distances that slow travel and transport, or the often patchy infrastructure between destinations as well as between supply and demand. 

But many of these divisions are imaginary. AFD’s "Atlas de l'Afrique" (published in French by Armand Colin) goes against the grain of preconceived images and takes a continental approach, giving a more accurate picture of the complexity and diversity of a vast, evolving and complex continent.

Taking Stock…and Anticipating Challenges

The Atlas is a veritable panorama, with more than a hundred pages of maps, texts and graphs, and is divided into three major sections. The first aims to “Take the Full Measure of Africa”, highlighting the major transformations that have unfolded in recent years.  The second examines “A Multifaceted Continent” though with "Common Challenges.” Part three features an “Africa in the Making: Addressing the Major Challenges of the Future,” and examines the upcoming challenges and the responses being developed.

This last section also explores progress and pitfalls on the road to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the fight for gender equality and climate and biodiversity protection. 

Often sidelined in conventional development texts, culture and sport are assessed as playing an increasingly important role in social and economic development. 

Africa in the making

Drawing on a number of examples, from enterprising entrepreneurship and digital technologies to the evolution of dynamic civil societies, the atlas helps readers move on from a disembodied and antiquated vision of Africa towards a more nuanced and coherent understanding. 

“Today, Africa stands out in the world as a key partner that is shaping and offering new pathways," says Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in the Atlas forward, "by capitalizing on the diversity of all its assets and potential.”    

The Atlas is the result of the combined expertise of the ECA and teams of Agence Française de Développement, who have been working in the field for almost 80 years.

Featured in these pages are the following themes: 

  • Women, major economic players in Africa

In Africa, the level of women's participation in the labor market stands at 55%, a level higher than in the most advanced countries (53%) and the world average (48%).

  • Electricity connections underway in Africa   

Africa has made huge strides in electrification. There has been a massive increase in the proportion of the population with access to electricity: between 1990 and 2017, it rose from 29% to 53%, allowing some 470 million more Africans to benefit from this energy source.

  • Employment, a major challenge for Africa’s prosperity

Africa is the region with the highest increase in its working population. According to United Nations projections, it will account for over 75% of growth in the global work force by 2050. And yet, that remains the challenge: for African economies to create enough jobs to welcome unprecedented numbers of young candidates into a rapidly growing workforce.

AFD Atlas Cover
AFD’s Atlas of Africa, The Continent from a New Angle (in French), €25.