As Africa’s Population Soars to 2.5 Billion By 2050, Alternative Protein Is Key, Report Finds
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African nations are expected to embrace a shift away from conventional meat for more alternative options as alternative proteins become more widely available by mid-century.
By 2050, a quarter of the world’s population will be African. The continent’s population boom will account for 1.3 billion of the estimated 2 billion increase in the global population between 2019 and 2050.
A number of African nations struggle to feed their current populations, and experts say climate change’s impact will only bring more challenges to food systems. But a shift in protein preferences could help feed more people. And new research suggests African consumers are already embracing plant-based protein.
According to new data from North Mountain Consulting Group and South Africa-based Credence Institute, three of the continent’s most populated countries are leaning into plant-based protein. In Egypt–the third most populated country in Africa, with more than 100 million people currently—62 percent of Gen Z and Millennials consumers say they’re likely to try plant-based protein; in Kenya, the seventh largest African nation by population, it’s 80 percent; and in Nigeria, home to Africa’s largest population, it’s 76 percent. These consumers also say they’re not only likely to try vegan options, but highly likely to purchase plant-based options, too. In Kenya, 72 percent, 63 percent in Nigeria, and 46 percent in Egypt.
“The high degree of openness to plant-based, cultivated, and hybrid products signals an opportunity to reduce reliance on conventional meat, improving public health, environmental, and animal welfare outcomes,” Dr. Keri Szejda, Principal Research Scientist, North Mountain Consulting Group, said in a statement accompanying the report.
“Current dietary patterns are also an important consideration,” reads the report. “Nearly all participants ate meat, but their consumption varied: Nigerians are heavy meat eaters, Egyptians are moderate meat eaters, and many Kenyans are flexitarians. Purchasing patterns differed in that most Nigerians purchased meat from informal markets or street side vendors, whereas Kenyans and Nigerians most often purchased from butcheries. Supermarkets, presumably where plant-based meat would likely be sold, were used less often overall, but were used more often in Egypt, followed by Kenya, and quite infrequently in Nigeria. Beef, chicken, and fish were the most regularly consumed types of meat in all countries. Family members were considered to be the most important influence on the trial of new foods, while friends and medical professionals were also considered influential.”
Africa’s changing appetite
According to the research, both plant-based and conventional meat are already becoming more accessible to larger population segments. The research says as these alternative protein options become more widely available, conventional meat consumption could drop. In Egypt, the researchers expect meat consumption to drop to half its current rate. In Nigeria and Kenya, the numbers are even higher—a 66 percent drop in Nigeria and 75 percent in Kenya.
“Meat consumption is expected to rise substantially in many African countries over the coming decades, which would have severe effects on animal welfare, food security, public health, and the environment. Our work in Kenya, Nigeria, and Egypt found that plant-based meat and other alternative proteins may help mitigate some of these effects, as consumers are ready to embrace these products,” says Moritz Stumpe, Researcher, Credence Institute.
While meat consumption historically rises with income levels, the research found that lower-middle-income countries are some of the biggest markets for alternative protein. Kenya is particularly receptive to the opportunity, with many nationals already reducing their meat consumption.
The continent is also expected to see cultivated meat become accessible as widespread regulatory approval is expected by 2025. Two South African companies, Mogale Meat Co. and Mzansi Meat Co., have developed cultivated meat. Mogale, which has already successfully produced cell-based chicken, is now working on game meats. Mzansi is aiming to bring its cultivated beef burgers to fast food restaurants by next year.