Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Africa’s expected population growth: what prospects for the future?

21.11.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
According to the 2019 revision of the world population prospects, most of the population growth in the coming decades will happen in Sub-Sahara Africa. A 2015 World Bank report had also noted that Africa’s population is expanding, and will reach an estimated 2.8 billion by 2060. The report equally mentions that the continent may enormously benefits from this demographic dividend to enhance economic takeoff. However, this greatly depends on how ready the continent is to face the challenges that come with the growth in population and use them for their benefit.

While some countries in the world are expecting a population decline, Africa’s population is expected to rise tremendously. According to a 2015 publication by the Washington post, Africa which is home to about 1.2 billion, is expected to witness a slight acceleration in its annual population growth in the immediate future. A UN report indicated that by the year 2050, the annual increase in population will exceed 42 million people per year and the total population will have doubled to 2.4 billion. Following a World Bank statistics, sub-Sahara Africa’s population has increased from 186 million to 856 million people from the year 1950 to 2010. Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, DRC, Niger, Zambia, and Uganda were also projected to contribute millions of people.

Major statistics have indicated that the total fertility rate of Africa is 88% higher than the world standard. This means that the number of children an average woman in Africa is likely to have remains very high as compared to global rates. For instance in Niger, the average number of children a woman is expected to have is more than seven. A report revealed that Niger’s current population which is about 20 million may grow by 800,000 people over the next 12 months. It went further to explain that by the year 2100, the country could have more than 209 million people. Furthermore, Nigeria alone is expected to surpass the population of the United States by about 30 million people by 2050, making it the world’s third-most populous country after China and India.

Should Africa be hopeful with the expected population growth?

A 2013 report by The Economist newspaper revealed that other regions in the world that grew quickly like Sub Sahara Africa in the past often benefitted from the demographic dividend. This could mean that the continent can also capitalize on the benefit that comes with population growth to boost economic development. It also noted that East Asia is one of the regions where the projected demographic dividend accounted for one-third of its economic growth. Another report titled: Africa’s Demographic Transition: Dividend or Disaster? Published by The Washington Post in 2015, Stipulated that demographic change such as population growth and a reduction in the number of dependent youth, can have a great impact on a country’s economic growth.

However, it presented a sharp difference in demographic changes in Africa with those in East Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. It presented statistics which noted that East Asia from 1975 to 2010, experienced a rapid decline in fertility which eventually reduced youth dependency and at the same time increased the number of working-age people from 16 to 64 years. Hence the demographic of 1.5 workers per new birth in the early years was attained, and it hiked to 2.5 workers per birth over 35 years.

It was equally observed that East Asia exploited its export-oriented policies that increased the demand for labor and worked in favour of the country. Thus, with more working adults, and fewer children per family in East Asia, the government could invest more in education and health care. It can be noted that approximately 60% of sub-Saharan Africans are younger than 25 which can be transformed into an active workforce. But this can only be beneficial if the fertility rates is reduced which will increase the proportion of people in the working-age as compared to the number of those who are dependent.

As compared to Asia and Latin America which had benefited from such a system, the fertility rate in Africa is expected to take much longer, hence it may prove difficult for the continent to benefit from the growth in population.

African leaders attempt to curb population growth

Despite the fact that Europe’s population will stagnate, Africa will play a pivotal role in shaping the size and distribution of the world’s population over the next few decades indicated a UN report. To some, this growth may pose a major problem for the continent, hence, some African heads of state have been implementing measures to reduce their population growth.  Efforts are being made such as Family Planning 2020 across the continent and reports indicate that Kenya and Zambia have improved the use of female contraception by women through this program. The report revealed that 58% of married women in Kenya now use modern contraception, and Zambia experienced an increase from 33% to 45% in the last three years.

For some years now, some African leaders have encouraged foreign-funded family planning programs and some West African leaders have equally devised strategies to reduce population growth. One of this measure emerged during a health and family planning meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in February 2011, during which West African parliamentarians decided to assign 5% of national budgets to family planning programs.

The main aim of this is to reduce birth rates in the region from 5.6 children to 3 children per woman by 2030. The main objective of the Partnership reached in Ouagadougou is to reach at least 2.2millions additional family planning methods users in the nine countries by 2020. Burkina Faso is working to ensure that the youth are fully integrated in all family planning activities, and the country is working to achieve free contraceptive services and products for all clients. Also, Rwanda promoted family planning in the country and provide contraceptives to clinics. This reduced the fertility rate by more than half, to 3.8 over the past 20 years.

However, some critics argue that women who are supposed to be at the center of such programs are being left out of these discussions and the decision-making process. Thus, the efforts made by the governments are yielding little or no fruit as some women in Africa still have more children than desired.

Africa may face population-related challenges

Countries that are overcrowded such as the Philippines, India, Bangladesh and, Indonesia have seen their workforce moving to other countries for work and Africa’s youthful population is already following the same example. Africa’s skilled labour is constantly moving and the continent may soon experience a severe brain drain. Unfortunately, most countries are closing their borders which means that the continent will have to deal with its population.

Researchers have noted that the continent is likely to face population-related challenges such as urbanization which may result in inadequate housing, improper health care, and poverty. According to these researchers, people are moving from the rural and agricultural sectors to the urban sectors in large numbers which has increased the rate of urbanization. The move has primarily been the result of a lack of development in rural areas.  This has brought up the need for infrastructural services like quality housing and medical facilities etc.

With the current population, the continent is still struggling to reduce poverty as well as unemployment rates. Health issues are still a major concern and it is feared that it may worsen with an increase in population. Also worthy of note is the fact that hunger and food security is also a challenge which is yet to be resolved. Somalis, Ethiopia, Angola, Sudan and many other African countries for instance, faced serious problems related to acute food shortages. Thus, it is assumed that the growth in the population may increase the number of malnourished children.

Conclusively, Sub Sahara Africa was reported to have enjoyed one of the highest economic growth rates in the world. With rapid growth in population, the region can obtain considerable benefits from the potential demographic dividend in the long term if the proper policies and institutions are put in place.

To achieve this, governments have to put in place programs to provide adequate conditions for the social, economic and cultural development of people. As the population expands the leaders in charge have to make available the necessary infrastructural apace to accommodate the increase. If the continent is unable to adequately manage this population growth, then governments should think about strengthening strategies to reduce population growth.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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