If U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris has a favorite number on her trip to Africa, it's undoubtedly 19. That's the median age in Africa, and she repeats the fact at every opportunity.

For Harris, it’s not a piece of trivia but the driving force behind the stepped-up U.S. outreach to African countries. Washington is racing to build partnerships on the oldest inhabited continent with the youngest population, a test that could reshape the economy in Africa and, by extension, the rest of the world.

In the near future, “1 in 4 people on this earth will be on this continent,” Harris said during a conversation with reporters. “Just on that alone — the demographics of it all alone — if you put aside the present and the past, if we are to be forward-looking in terms of national policies and priorities, we have to look at this continent.”

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