The Western world witnessed a baby boom post World War II. Now Africa, the world's second most populous continent, is set for a demographic boom of unprecedented scale. Its population will double in just 35 years to 2.4 billion in 2050, and is projected to eventually hit 4.2 billion by 2100.
The demographics of Africa’s children are experiencing a transition, wherein the continent will witness the birth of almost two billion babies in the next 35 years, a United Nations report says.
Right now, Africa is the second largest and second most populous continent on Earth, with an estimated population of 1.033 billion people in 2013. The continent’s population will continue to increase and eventually reach 4.2 billion by 2100. The under-18 population will also increase by two thirds to reach almost 1 billion by mid-century.
By 2050, the continent will be home to around 41 per cent of all of the world’s births, 40 per cent of all global under-fives and 37 per cent of all children (under 18). With its population set to soar high, Africa will become increasingly crowded. The continent’s population density is projected to increase from 8 people per square kilometre in 1950 to 39 in 2015 and to about 80 by mid-century.
Africa's average annual rate of population change, percent (2010 - 2015) According to reports, Africa’s baby boom between 2015 and 2050 is being attributed to high fertility rates and increasing number of women of reproductive age.The demographics of Africa’s children are experiencing a transition, wherein the continent will witness the birth of almost two billion babies in the next 35 years.
Demographics are becoming a key reason for Africa’s increasing centrality to the global development and growth agenda. The projections by the United Nations Population Division, titled “World population prospects: the 2012 revision - key findings and advance tables”, released last June indicate a sharp increase in Africa’s inhabitants through the rest of the century, even as population growth rates continue to slow. Africa's population will double in just 35 years to 2.4 billion in 2050, and is projected to eventually hit 4.2 billion by 2100.
Why Africa, already the world’s second most populous continent with over 1 billion inhabitants, will experience this demographic shift, unprecedented in its scale and swiftness, and how will this affect Africa and the rest of the world.
Top 10 countries in Africa with largest absolute and percentage increases in children under 18 from 2015 to 2050
Source: UNICEF analysis based on UN WPP 2012 Revision
Africa has the highest child dependency ratio — 73 children under age 15 per 100 persons of working age in 2015, close to double the global average. This ratio is projected to decline steadily as fertility rates ebb and the working-age population expands, but will still remain far higher than other regions.
Today three in 10 of Africa’s children are living in fragile and conflict-affected regions
Conflict and fragility continue to undermine human rights and social and economic progress in a number of African countries. Of the 34 countries classified by the World Bank in 2014 as having fragile and conflict-affected contexts, 20 are African.
Around one fourth of the continent's population resides in these 20 countries, which also account for almost three in 10 African children under 18, totalling 143 million. Almost 3 in every 10 births in Africa, and one third of all under-five deaths in Africa, occur in countries with fragile and conflict-affected contexts.
By 2100, three-fourth of the world's growth is expected to happen in Africa, to account for one-third of the world's population, show the population projections released by the United Nations Population Division in June 2013 and the 2014 World Population Data Sheet released by Population Research Bureau.
What drives this projected population boom?
According to the new UNICEF report, released this month, almost 2 billion babies will be born in Africa between 2015 and 2050 and the two main driving forces behind this surge in births and children are:
➠ Continued high fertility rates
➠ Rising numbers of women of reproductive age
More number of younger women in the reproductive age group
Each African woman on average will have 4.7 children in 2010-2015 — far above the global average of 2.5. Africa’s population surge has swelled its ranks of women of reproductive age (15–49), from 54 million in 1950 to 280 million in 2015; going by current trends, this figure will further increase to 407 million in 2030 and to 607 million in 2050.
Percent of Young Women Married by Age 15 (numbers in white) and Age 18 (numbers in black)
Source: ICF International, Demographic and Health Surveys
By mid-century, the number of women of reproductive age in Africa will more than double, in contrast to Asia, where number of women of reproductive age are shrinking.
Higher fertility rates
Fertility rates in Africa, too, remain much above the global average, shows the UNICEF report. Africa’s average fertility rate is in decline, and has been for decades. But its rate of decline is slow and the continent’s fertility rates remain far higher than anywhere else in the world.
In total, 15 African countries will have an average fertility rate of five children or more per woman in 2015 due to several factors, including poverty and unmet need for family planning.
Total fertility in Africa and the world, 1950–2100
UNICEF analysis based on UN WPP 2012 Revision
The 2014 World Population Data Sheet also shows this disturbing population scenario and warns that Sub-Saharan Africa, where fertility rates are among the highest in the world, will account for the majority of the increase. It shows that women in Sub-Saharan Africa currently average 5.2 children during their lifetime, compared to averages of 1.6 in Europe and 1.9 in North America.
The 10 countries worldwide with the highest fertility are all in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Source: World Population Datasheet
An important paper, “Proximate determinants of fertility in sub-Saharan Africa and their possible use in fertility projections” points to the uneven and intermittent support of family planning programmes over the past decades in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Total fertility by UNECA region, 1950–2100
UNICEF analysis based on UN WPP 2012 Revision
In addition to high birth rates, the region’s population is also quite young, with 43 per cent of the population below age 15.
So, more number of younger women with high fertility rates will give birth to more babies.
In Niger, the birth rate is as high as 7.6 children per woman. And even if we assume that this rate will decline steadily over the coming decades, the population of Niger is still expected to nearly quadruple by 2050, according to Carl Haub, a senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based non-profit group.
In Burkina Faso and other West African countries, women still desire large families showed PRB's Family Planning Worldwide 2013 Data Sheet
Longer life expectancy, better child survival rates and access to healthcare
Improved child survival rate with access to healthcare facilities being among the main reasons for the unprecedented growth in African children has been reiterated in the UNICEF report. A child born in Africa today has a much higher chance of reaching her or his fifth birthday than children born almost a quarter of a decade ago. In 1990, almost one in every six African children died before attaining the age of five years; in 2012, the latest year for which estimates are available, that ratio fell to one in every 11 children born.
The 2014 UNICEF report acknowledges constant efforts of national and international partners who prioritised child survival interventions in sub-Saharan Africa. (A note of caution : However, Sub Saharan Africa, where on average, one in every nine children dies before the age of five, still has the world`s highest rate of child mortality).
In 1950, Africa accounted for one in every nine global births. By 2030 Africa is projected to account for almost one in every three global births. At the end of the century, Africa will account for almost half of all the world’s births
According to Carl Haub, the co-author of the 2014 population projection report by the US-based Population Reference Bureau, “Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is rising faster than the rest of the world because modern medicine and healthcare on the continent means more babies. are surviving birth complications, and fewer adults are dying from preventable diseases.” But the number of children being conceived is not dropping, or is very slow, and he says that “population growth rates would naturally rise if birth rates stay as they are”.
With high rates of natural increase, in excess of two per cent, by the close of the century the population of Africa's 33 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is expected to reach 2.2 billion, or slightly more than a fifth of the world's population at that time, notes Joseph Chamie of the New York-based Center for Migration Studies and a former director of the UN Population Division, in his paper, Africa's Demographic Multiplication: What will influence the future growth of Africa’s population— and why does this matter to the world as a whole? commissioned by the Washington-based Globalist Research Center.
But despite this, in West and Central Africa, declining under-five mortality rates have been offset by increasing number of births, leaving the absolute number of under-five deaths static or increasing in absolute terms.
More conflicts, more poverty, more children
UNICEF analysis also shows a definite relationship between poverty and war as previously documented in this paper. The UNICEF report expresses concern that conflict and fragility continue to undermine human rights and social and economic progress in a number of African countries and notes that three in 10 of Africa’s children are living in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. It may be noted that of the 34 countries classified by the World Bank in 2014 as having fragile and conflict-affected contexts, 20 are African and around one-fourth of the continent's population resides in these 20 countries.
Six of the countries with fertility levels over five children per women are classified as fragile and conflict-affected states. These are:
➠ Democratic Republic of the Congo
Investing in girls and women, especially in reproductive health, education, and preventing child marriage is key to managing Africa’s demographic transition is an important message that UNICEF gives in this report. The importance of investing in and empowering girls and young women as an imperative to slow adolescent fertility rates, and build an Africa fit for all, is the focus of “State of the World Population report 2013” also. These observations call for the African nations to come together to drive the population control agenda and initiate policy actions targeted at families, communities and governments and help the African woman gain the right to decide “the number of children she wants to bear and the family size she wants”.
In fact, the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development in Africa beyond 2014, consisting of 88 commitments, serves as a major reference for population and development policies and programmes beyond 2014 and has already set out concrete actions and Africa’s priorities on population in the development agenda post 2015. However, the UN estimates that the populations of the 48 least-developed nations, of which 27 are in Africa, will grow faster than other parts of the world. It identifies 10 countries in Africa that are likely to experience a many-fold population increase: Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.
Niger has the largest percentage increase in population among African countries
In terms of percentage rises, the largest increases will be recorded in Niger (260 per cent), whose population will rise from 19 million to 69 million from 2015 to 2050. By 2100,
204 million people are projected to live in Niger. The other largest relative increases after Niger for the 2015-2050 period are projected for Zambia (185 per cent); Mali (178 per cent); Uganda (159 per cent); the United Republic of Tanzania, Gambia and Burundi (all 147 per cent); Chad (146 per cent);
Somalia (143 per cent) and Nigeria (140 per cent).
Top 10 countries in Africa with largest total population and most children under 18, 2015
Data Courtesy: UNICEF analysis based on UN WPP 2012 Revision
The UN said: “The concentration of population growth in the poorest countries will make it harder for those governments to eradicate poverty and inequality, combat hunger and malnutrition, expand education enrolment and health systems, improve the provisions of basic services and implement other elements of a sustainable development agenda to ensure that no-one is left behind.”
The future of Africa is certainly Nigerian. The country is all set to see the largest increase, in Africa, in absolute numbers of both births and child population. But these births are most likely to only add to the burden of the economy that despite growing at a commendable pace is unable to keep poverty at bay.
The UNICEF report, titled Generation 2030: Africa, estimates that by the end of this century, the continent’s population will soar from present one billion to more than four billion. Of this, nearly one billion will live in Nigeria alone.
What’s more, between 2031 and 2050, the country is projected to add an additional 224 million babies (21 per cent of the births in Africa and 8 per cent of all births in the world). By 2015, one-fifth of Africa’s births will also take place in the country, accounting for 5 per cent of all global births.
In just 35 years, Nigeria’s population will be 2.5 times its current size, reaching 440 million
Among Africa’s 54 countries, Nigeria has by far the largest population with 184 million inhabitants, accounting for 16 per cent of Africa’s population in 2015. By 2100, almost 1 billion people (914 million) are projected to live in Nigeria alone. The next three most populous countries currently are Ethiopia (99 million), Egypt (85 million) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (71 million).
Children of misfortune
These numbers are not just numbers. They are a warning for a country that reportedly has thousands of child beggars, many of whom have now become easy recruits for the country’s militant Islamist movement Boko Haram. These are also the children who have turned to extremism after being abandoned by their parents who are illiterate and poor. In such circumstances and amid rising poverty and birth rate, how does Nigeria then plan to raise its yet-to-be-born children?
Nigeria is also a country which has spent much of previous four decades under military rule. According to a World Bank rating, 33.1 per cent of Nigerians (55.9 million people) still live below the poverty line. Though Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy, growing at an annual rate of 7 per cent Gross Domestic Product, it is also a country marred by inequality. “I doubt if there be any other country in the world that is more unequal than Nigeria,” says the author of a report published in Sahara Reporters. According to Unicef, 10 million Nigerian kids are still out of school. The number is a massive 47 per cent of the world's out-of-school children. A few experts very strongly believe that such numbers are likely to promote illegalities and criminalities, resulting in more crime, violence and insurgency.
Nigeria has by far the largest population with 184 million inhabitants, accounting for 16 per cent of Africa’s population in 2015. The next three most populous countries currently are Ethiopia (99 million), Egypt (85 million) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (71 million). In just 35 years, Nigeria’s population will be 2.5 times its current size, reaching 440 million.
Dimos Sakellaridis, country director of non-profit DKT International Nigeria, in a report published in businessdayonline, says, “…jobs, national infrastructures, social services, housing, health care fac1ilities are not also growing at an equally comparable rate or at a faster rate like her population growth rate does.”
It also calls for particular attention and investment in Niger, Mali and other smaller African nations with high fertility rates and large relative projected increases in child and total population in the world. IN 2050, sub-Saharan Africa’s income per capita could be 25% higher than it will be at current growth rates. By 2100 it could be up to 55% higher.
It gets better: these figures could further double as the result of a significant demographic dividend and the right economic choices, a new report on the African region by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says.
How does ensuring more Africans survive into adulthood in a region with already high rates of unemployment, and convincing women to have less children on a continent where they are culturally seen as riches, translate into such vastly better economic prospects?
Surprisingly, is already happening, and has been for the last three decades. Most of sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing a demographic transition, with infant and mortality rates falling, although at varying rates.
Hands to work
This has led to an increase in the working age population—those aged between 15-64 years. By 2035, the number of sub-Saharan Africans in this bracket will exceed that of the rest of the world combined, United Nations data show. This is both due to rapid population growth in Africa, and also because the rest of the world’s working age population will start to decline by 2050.
By 2100, sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the global labour force would have risen to 37%, from just 10% five years ago, meaning the continent could through migration become a net supplier of labour to the rest of the world.
“This is a trend with potentially significant implications for the both the region and the global economy,” the IMF said.
In the next 35 years, the region’s working age population is expected to triple to 1.25 billion people, twice the number of those 14 and under, and 12 times those older than 65 years.
But for Africa to realise its demographic “dividend” out of these populations it will need to make some tough choices—many of which would meet strong resistance if not communicated adequately.
How does it work? A demographic transition involves many stages. First, the increased share of the working age population tends to directly increase per capita incomes. When there are fewer people to support, countries have the chance for rapid economic growth as evidenced by the Asian Tigers, whose “economic miracle” rise since the 1970s was significantly pushed by demographic shifts.
If this increased workforce is employed, the result should be greater economic output, and more income from about from each household.
Declining fertility rates are generally associated with higher participation of females in the labour force, as they have less children to attend to. This means the total number of people in the workforce increases, leading to even more reductions in fertility rates—working women tend to delay or have less children.
Percentage of African population divided by age (2015 - 2050) The observed result is that Nigeria’s per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which was higher than Indonesia’s in 1960, is now at about half of the Asian country’s. Last year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) suggested that if Nigeria puts in place the right policies which would lead to demographic dividends akin to that of Indonesia and other East Asian economies, its GDP per capita income would rise 12% by 2020, and 29% by 2030.
Policies, an area the region often struggles with, thus are the crucial bridge in helping sub-Saharan Africa attain this growth. Programmes to encourage couples have less children, investment in the workforce to increase productivity and a shift to labour-intensive jobs are among the more low hanging ones that could be rolled out.
Every year, some 120 million youth enter the job market globally. Additionally, some 90% of the 400 million jobs in the low-income countries are in the informal sector, such as agriculture and self-employment.
The challenge for Africa’s dividend is how to absorb its share of entrants to the workforce—450 million between 2010 and 2035. The IMF says sub-Saharan Africa would have to create high productivity jobs at an average of 18 million jobs annually until 2035, a huge undertaking but the alternative is more challenging.
“Failure to create sufficient jobs could result in severe economic and social problems,” the IMF said. It is pushing for more agricultural productivity, diversification onto labour-intensive jobs and household enterprises, roping in of the private sector and meeting key infrastructural needs such as energy and communication.
Sub-Saharan Africa thus has the tools to a more solid Africa Rising narrative, but also the path to reverse gains of the last decade or so.
Except for a few countries in Southern Africa and some island nations,
fertility rates and youth dependency rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are among the highest in the world, exposing the region to higher poverty rates, smaller investments in children, lower labor productivity, high unemployment or underemployment, and the risk of political instability.
Total fertility in countries in Africa, 2015
UNICEF analysis based on UN WPP 2012 Revision
But demography need not lead to disaster. If the focus shifts from population numbers to population age structures, the prospects for Africa may be positive. Declines in fertility automatically raise income per capita in the short run and have the potential to bring further gains in savings and investments in the long run.
Contribution of Age Structure to Recent Changes in Resources per Child in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1990–2050
Africa will eventually begin to age in the second half of the 21st century, with almost 800 million elderly persons living there in 2100, up from just 64 million today
Source: Eloundou-Enyegue 2013
With prudent policies, African countries can reap the benefits of this demographic dividend. Policy choices and actions can transform the population of a nation into a healthy, educated, empowered labor force that can contribute to real and sustained economic growth that lifts people out of poverty. As a bonus, a demographic dividend can even accelerate economic growth in ways that spread prosperity across society
Ratio of Working-Age Population 16–64 Years of Age to Dependents and Total Fertility Rate in Africa, 2010
Source: Pradhan and Canning 2013
Most of Africa’s population is living in poverty, often extreme, despite high GDP growth rates in recent years. Based on the latest data available for 45 of Africa's 54 countries from the World Bank, 58 per cent of the African population — and 70 per cent of sub–Saharan Africa — survives on less than US$2 per day. In the two subregions of Eastern and Western Africa, more than 70 per cent of the population lives on less than US$2 per day. Extreme poverty is also rife on the continent; around 40 per cent of Africa's population, and almost half of sub-Saharan Africa live on less US$1.25 per day
Countries in Africa by national income, 2015
Source: UNICEF analysis based on UN WPP 2012 Revision. The national income classifications follow the World Bank income classification, 2014 What Africa needs to do to avert demographic disaster
Africa’s population may double over the next 35 years— including almost a billion children of whom one in eleven will die before the age of five. This boom, projected in a latest Unicef report, titled Generation 2030: Africa, is a serious threat to the continent’s already damaged health infrastructure, its already strained capacity to feed itself and its unstable political regimes that have failed to avoid unrests in many countries of the continent.
Rise of militant groups like Boko Haram and their strategy to recruit child beggars and the poor of Nigeria is another alarm for the continent staring at a historic baby boom. But what is it that Africa needs to do to curb this boom that if out of control will make the already poor continent poorer?
Improvement in education and literacy rates is undisputedly the first step. In a report published in Huffington Post, according to the World Bank, once girls get minimum fifth-grade education, they are more likely to marry later, have a smaller family, seek medical care for themselves and their children, find employment later in life, gain access to credit, and participate in political life of the community and country.
African farm yields are less than half as productive as those in other regions of the world. But in many parts of the continent, like Tanzania (in south-eastern Africa), agricultural innovation has been leading to empowerment of women and girls. The smart approaches to make communities, including women, self dependent not only promises to make the coming boom a turning point toward truly sustainable development but also curtail the birth numbers.
Africa's Secondary school enrolment, net percent of secondary school-age children, 1999-2014 Invest in children now
Niger (in north Africa), according to United Nation’s Human Development Index, is the poorest place on Earth. An estimated 2.5 million people out of a total of 17 million have no secure source of food in the drought-stricken country. What makes matters worse is that the average fertility rate is 7.6 children per woman in Niger. It is clear that poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and poor access to contraception are reasons for such staggering population boom. In such circumstances, planning and implementation of development schemes holds the key. “By investing in children now—in their health, education and protection—Africa could realise the economic benefits experienced previously in other regions and countries that have undergone similar demographic shifts,” says Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, Unicef’s regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, in the press release of the Africa 2030 report.
The report is meant to seize on an opportunity to not only invest in children, but do so in a way that propels larger goals, such as gender equity. Unicef stresses that efforts need to be undertaken immediately.
“If investment in Africa’s children is not prioritised, the continent will not be able to take full advantage of its demographic transition in the coming decades. Without equitable and inclusive policies, the pace of population growth could potentially undermine attempts to eradicate poverty and increase disparities,” says Manuel Fontaine, Unicef regional director for West and Central Africa.
International community has to help
Emphasising the need for more dedicated and intense efforts on a global scale, the report says international dialogue on Africa’s child demographics and their implications for children’s rights, development and future is urgently required. “As globalisation continues to increase the interconnectedness and interdependence of the world’s citizens, the reverberations of Africa’s demographic transition will be felt far beyond the continent’s borders. It has implications for a diverse range of issues, from China’s growing demand for resources and major investments in Africa; Europe’s challenges with migration from Africa; and Africa’s status as a major consumer market,” says the report. The current epidemic of Ebola in West Africa and the panic and emergency it has created throughout the world is an example of how no major change in the continent will be restricted to its geographical boundaries.
Access to family planning initiatives
Estimates of the United Nations Population Division for 2015 showed that in sub-Saharan Africa, 25 per cent of women of reproductive age who are married or in a union have an unmet need for family planning. Therefore, education and access to family planning awareness is a measure Africa cannot afford to ignore.
Africa's percentage of married or in-union women aged 15 to 49 who are currently using any method of contraception
mouse move on countries to see detail
Building resilience for Africa’s children
Talking about the need to make its children tougher to face what lies ahead, the report says, “Building resilience in Africa, through peace-building, risk and foresight-based planning, creation of social safety nets and integrating humanitarian and development work, will be critical to both help support Africa’s growing child population in fragile states and also to reduce their fragility in the future.”
✿ Data Courtesy: World Bank, UNICEF, UN Population Fund
✿ Text and Analysis: Vani Manocha, Kiran Pandey, Deepanwita Niyogi and Lalit Maurya
✿ Image Courtesy: UNICEF, Wikipedia