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Seven: A Lucky Number?

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Yesterday on October 31st the world's population officially hit seven billion. Seven is a suggestive figure. In many cultures it is lucky -- in France, for instance, a cat has seven lives. Shakespeare said there were "seven ages of man" and seven is apparently the ideal number of hours of sleep a person needs. In this case though, the vast growth in world population begs questions about resources and the future of our planet.

In 1959, when I was born, the earth supported 3 billion people, but extraordinarily, that number has more than doubled in the past fifty years. Half of those people survive on less than $2 per day. Seven billion is a milestone, not an end point, and the UN expects 8 billion by 2025 with substantial growth continuing after that. It is vital that we start to consider how we will sustain such a swift increase.

To mark this day we have compiled seven sets of facts about the world. Some are predictable but you will find a few surprises too.

1. Seven richest countries by GDP (IMF estimates for 2011)
USA $15,064.816
China $6,988.470
Japan $5,855.383
Germany $3,628.623
France $2,808.265
Brazil $2,517.927
UK $2,480.978

2. World's seven fastest growing economies
China
India
Ethiopia
Mozambique
Tanzania
Vietnam
Congo

3. Seven richest countries based on purchasing-power-parity per capita GDP (IMF figures for 2010)
Qatar $88,221.507
Luxembourg $81,466.152
Singapore $56,694.426
Norway $51,958.897
Brunei $48,333.146
UAE $47,438.659
United States $46,860.242

4. Seven best countries to do business (World Bank Doing Business Index)
Singapore
Hong Kong
New Zealand
United States
Denmark
Norway
United Kingdom

5. Seven most innovative countries in 2011 (INSEAD)
Switzerland
Sweden
Singapore
Hong Kong
Finland
Denmark
United States

6. Seven worst countries to live in (UN 2010 rankings)
Zimbabwe
Democratic Republic of Congo
Niger
Burundi
Mozambique
Guinea-Bissau
Chad

7. Seven best countries to live in (UN 2010 rankings)
Norway
Australia
New Zealand
United States
Ireland
Liechtenstein
Netherlands

The most important question now is how to guarantee that 7, 8 and very soon 10 billion people will be able to feed themselves. This will be the main topic and mission of the Global Food Security Forum that we are organizing with OCP Group and THE BCG Group in Morocco in March 2012.

It is more than ever time for concrete initiatives about what I think will be the most urgent issue to address in the near future.