Africa and it’s population problem

Editorial

I very much wish our leaders had come to this conclusion and gave this speech. To allow this European to tell us our bitter truth is to fertilise the racism of Europeans and other non black races. Our elites are selfish and not willing to assist its people. However, this truth is true no matter who says it.

AT the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 8, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, jolted his audience at a news conference when he called the world’s attention to the peculiarities of Africa’s development challenges.

In his brutally frank response to the possibility of packaging a “Marshall Plan” for the continent, the newly-elected president said the problems facing Africa were “civilisational,” and quite different from the challenges faced by other continents.

According to him, at the moment, spending billions of Euros outright would stabilise nothing. So, the transformation plan that we have to conduct together must be developed according to African interests by and with African leaders to ensure rigorous governance.

The plan should also fight corruption and implement a successful demographic transition programme that will address the problem of countries having “seven or eight children per woman,” a birth-rate he called continuously destabilising.

As expected, many critics have described the young president’s statement as racist, problematic and arrogant for not acknowledging the historical damage of colonialism on Africa. It is argued that the new president is only sticking to a very old line when it comes to France’s position on Africa.

Take Nicolas Sarkozy, who, on a visit to Dakar, in Senegal, in 2007, said that “the tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history … They have never really launched themselves into the future. The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words.”

In many ways, Macron’s statement should be condemned for its racist undertone. But as far as Africa’s demographic crisis goes, Macron is spot-on. Africa stands the risk of sinking deeper into the poverty hole with all the adverse consequences that it portends. Apart from corruption, internecine wars and poor leadership, rapid demographic growth, according to recent reports, may keep the continent further down the development indices in the coming decades unless radical population reforms are implemented.

By 2100, at least 6.1 billion of the world’s 11 billion people will be Africans, against just 1.2 billion today. According to the Financial Times, by 2035, more than half of all new job seekers in the world will be Africans. Nigeria in particular faces a bleaker future unless its population growth is brought under control.

The country, which currently ranks seventh, is projected to be the world’s third most populous by the year 2050, overtaking the United States and queuing up behind India and China. Nigeria is projected to add more people to the world’s population by 2050 than any other country.

According to the World Bank, with approximately 184 million inhabitants, Nigeria accounts for 47 per cent of West Africa’s population, and has one of the largest populations of youths in the world. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs said the population growth presented a challenge as the international community sought to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda seeking to end poverty and preserve the planet.

Indeed, the signs of the deterioration in Africans’ living standard are already visible. Globally, women today give birth to an average of 2.5 children, but in Africa, women give birth on average to 4.7 children. The implication of this is that while the continent’s economic fortunes, especially food security and employment, are declining, the population is rising nearly three times faster than in the rest of civilisation.

This extreme growth, according to Scientific American, an online journal, threatens Africa’s development and stability. Many of its (Africa’s) inhabitants live in countries that are not especially well endowed with fertile soils, abundant water or smoothly functioning governments.

Mounting competition for nourishment and jobs in such places could cause strife across the region and, in turn, put significant pressure on food, water and natural resources around the world, especially if Africans leave their nations in droves, which is already happening. As many as 37 per cent of young adults in sub-Saharan Africa say they want to move to another country, mostly because of a lack of employment.

Other dangerous indications that confirm that Africa’s situation is already bleak include low life expectancies, slow pace of development and high rates of poverty and malnutrition. Crop yields, according to a report, are among the world’s lowest.

South of the Sahara, overgrazing by domestic animals encourages the desert to advance, pushing nomadic herders into the territory of farmers, as the populations of both groups grow. But there is no point for Africa to continue to blame colonialism for many of its woes. Macron’s poor word choice may be abysmal; it is in Africa’s interest for its leaders to take his warning on the birth rate seriously.

Many countries, including China, Denmark and Singapore, deliberately factored population control into their national plans to break the shackles of underdevelopment. As the Singaporean story shows, there are long-term links between policy settings, institutions and economic growth. Singapore’s nominal GDP per capita was around $500 in 1965, which was at the same level as Mexico and South Africa.

But by 1990, through rigorous planning, it had risen to about $13,000, surpassing South Korea, Israel, and Portugal, and by 2015, the GDP per capita was about $56,000, catching up with Germany and the US. African leaders should break the colonial jinx by taking charge of the continent’s unbridled breeding.

This can be done through a mix of educational and employment opportunities for women, access to contraception, urbanisation and an evolving middle class. But the defining policy will unarguably be uncompromising standards for a universally accessible, top-flight public education system, especially for girls. Africa’s population will soar dangerously unless women are more empowered. It has been proved that the longer girls stay at school, the fewer children they have. Joel Cohen, a professor of populations at the Rockefeller University in New York, says putting girls in developing countries through secondary school could cut the expected growth in the human population by as much as three billion by 2050.

“Secondary education increases people’s capacity and motivation to reduce their own fertility, improve the survival of their children and care for their own and the families’ health,” he says. Truly, any policy can be reversed, any incentives for growth can be dismantled, but an educated mind cannot be undone.

Unfortunately, out of Africa’s nearly 128 million school-aged children, 17 million will never attend school at all and another 37 million will learn so little in school, according to Brookings’ Africa Learning Barometer. African governments should, therefore, use education to detonate the continent’s population time-bomb.

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