How Common Is Illiteracy in Africa?

Illiteracy in Africa is common, with approximately 40% of all African adults (about 153 million people) who are unable to read or write as of 2015. Nine out of the top 10 countries with the highest illiteracy rates are from Africa. Women are more likely than men to be illiterate; two-thirds of all illiterate adults in Africa are female. From 1990 through 2008, the literacy rate for adults in Africa improved from 52% to about 60% due to increased advocacy, however, the total number of illiterate adults actually increased from 177 million to 200 million. This is likely a result of the continent’s rapidly growing population, which is projected to double by 2050.

More about literacy:

  • Worldwide, nearly 800 million adults, or about 12% of the total global population, and over 122 million youths, are functionally illiterate.

  • Illiteracy is thought to cost the world economy roughly $1.19 trillion US Dollars (USD) every year due to an increase in factors such as health care costs, crime, and welfare associated with being functionally illiterate.

  • Having an illiterate mother increases a child’s odds of not surviving past age 5 by over 50%.

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