Why Africa is bigger than you think – Richard Branson

As the COP 21 negotiations to secure a lasting global deal to tackle climate change continue, I have been thinking about a continent they will affect enormously. Africa is bigger, and more important to the rest of the world, than you think.

Image from gettyimages

Kai Krause created the graphic below to showcase the true size of Africa, which is widely distorted on commonly seen maps of the world. His image illustrated how many countries could comfortably fit inside Africa. In fact, the USA, China, India, Japan and the vast majority of Europe combined does not add up to the same area Africa occupies on earth.

Image created by Kai Krause

While size isn’t everything, the picture is just a small indication of how crucial Africa is to the world. Since Kai first released the graphic in 2010, Africa has developed rapidly. As well as being the birthplace of humanity, it is the future of innovation. In a recent meeting of The Elders, we discussed how Africa will be one of the fastest-growing parts of the world in the coming years, and how this will affect future generations.

One area of focus was population, which is sure to rise rapidly in Africa alongside growing urbanisation. Strong economic growth is also predicted, along with advances in communications and IT. This will put more strain on resources, while also providing a huge opportunity for new clean technologies to make their mark. Energy demand will grow massively, and technology such as solar power is going to be increasingly vital if this demand is to be met.

Image by John Armstrong Photography

I have always loved visiting Africa, from adventures with my father as a young man, to recent trips into the bush in Kenya at Mahali Mzuri and South Africa at Ulusaba. We have also invested in the continent through businesses such as Virgin Active, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Mobile – I visited the teams last month.

Africa has always been a continent with great potential for entrepreneurs looking to make a positive impact on the world. Through Virgin Unite and our partners we are supporting initiatives from South Africa to Liberia to Zimbabwe. We set up the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship to offer entrepreneurs training programs and access to mentorship and advice. Since Virgin Unite started 10 years ago, together with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, we’ve supported 4,000 entrepreneurs, many in Africa.

Image by Greg Hack

The growth of Africa should be viewed as a challenge to be excited by, not a problem to panic about. It represents one of the great opportunities to transform the world for good. I look forward to many more visits to support African entrepreneurs and development.

This Post first appeared on Virgin.com

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