A thought provoking New York Times article entitled “Nigeria Tested by Rapid Rise in Population” has had the dubious effect of causing some to froth at the mouth whilst others seem to be genuinely scared about the article’s conclusions.
For me the article raised more questions than it provided answers. The scariest statement in the article for many is this: “Sub-Saharan Africa, which now accounts for 12 percent of the world’s population, will account for more than a third by 2100, by many projections”.
The conclusion drawn from the article being that at that rate of population growth Africa will struggle to find the resources to feed itself and to provide the basic necessities of life. This assumption is erroneous. The article rightly draws attention to what such a population projection could mean but over reaches by ignoring the fact that the vast majority of the world’s resources are consumed by a small minority who do not live in Africa. The United States with only a population of 350 million consumes more petreoleum products than the entire 1 billion plus population of Africa. A child born there does exponentially more harm to the planet than a child born in Sub-Saharan Africa, in the sheer amount of resources they consume and waste.
This is an interesting article but it is alarmist and fails to factor in elements such as the rather low lifespan of continental Africans which is about 50 years and the high lifespan of Western nations which averages about 80+ years. As the continent gets richer (7 out of the 10 fastest economies are African) the old model of having as many children as possible for insuarance purposes in old age will eventually give way, just as it has done in Western industrialized countries to a system where fewer “quality” and better educated are had. This is demonstrated in in Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia where birthrates have edged down to about four children per woman.
What do you think? Will the growing population of Africa be so high that the countries will no longer be able to feed themselves or is the growing population a recipe for economic growth and prosperity?
An excerpt of the NYTArticle is below:
“Sub-Saharan Africa, which now accounts for 12 percent of the world’s population, will account for more than a third by 2100, by many projections.
At his concrete home in the town of Ipetumodu, Abel Olaniyi, 35, a laborer, said he has four children and wants two more. “The number you have depends on your strength and capacity,” he said, his wife sitting silently by his side.
Large families signal prosperity and importance in African cultures; some cultures let women attend village meetings only after they have had their 11th child. And a history of high infant mortality, since improved thanks to interventions like vaccination, makes families reluctant to have fewer children.
Muriana Taiwo, 45, explained that it was “God’s will” for him to have 12 children by his three wives, calling each child a “blessing” because so many of his own siblings had died.
Dr. Eloundou-Enyegue worries that Africa’s modestly declining birthrates reflect relatively rich, educated people reducing to invest in raising “quality” children, while poor people continue to have many offspring, strengthening divisions between haves and have-nots. “When you have a system with a large degree of corruption and inequality, it’s hard not to be playing the lottery because it increases the chances that one child will succeed,” he said.
In Nigeria’s desperately poor neighbor, Niger, women have on average more than seven children, and men consider their ideal to be more than 12. But with land divided among so many sons, the size of a typical family plot has fallen by more than a third since 2005, meaning there is little long-term hope for feeding children, said Amadou Sayo, of the aid group CARE.