Africa’s population growth (Economist)

The Economist has an article on population growth in sub-Saharan Africa: The Baby Bonanza and The Lesson from Sodom and Gomorrah

African v. Europe population growth - Economist Aug 2009….Africa is still something of a demographic outlier compared with the rest of the developing world. Long berated (or loved) as the sleepiest continent, it has now become the fastest-growing and fastest-urbanising one. Its population has grown from 110m in 1850 to 1 billion today. Its fertility rate is still high: the average woman born today can expect to have five children in her child-bearing years, compared with just 1.7 in East Asia. Barring catastrophe, Africa’s population will reach 2 billion by 2050. To get a sense of this kind of increase, consider that in 1950 there were two Europeans for every African; by 2050, on present trends, there will be two Africans for every European (see chart 1).

…One African in two is a child. The numbers are such that traditional ways of caring for children in extended families and communities are breaking down…

…Africa’s rate of urbanisation is the fastest the world has ever seen, says Anna Tibaijuka, the head of Habitat, the UN agency responsible for urban development. In 1950 only Alexandria and Cairo exceeded 1m people. When the city rush is done, Africa may have 80 cities with more than 1m people, plus a cluster of megacities headed by Kinshasa, Lagos and Cairo—none of which show signs of mass starvation. Intermediary towns of 50,000-100,000 people will soak up most of those coming from the countryside. Urbanisation is part of the solution to Africa’s demographic problems, not a manifestation of them.

Will the next generation be better off?

Indeed, it is an open question whether demography should really be considered an African problem—or one of its advantages. Over the past year, the continent has had the fastest economic growth per person in the world, partly because it has been somewhat less affected by the collapse of world trade, but partly because of the small increases countries are seeing in the number of people of working age…

For one of the best weekly roundups of links on Africa, check out Texas in Africa. For example, here are a few of her links from this week:

Read more.

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4 thoughts on “Africa’s population growth (Economist)

  1. Thanks for the link! And very interesting post. It got me thinking that we’re not exactly comparing apples to apples here – industrialized countries generally show population declines while those that are industrializing/developing have much higher birthrates. It would be interesting to compare similar stats from the same period of political/economic development in European history with Africa over the last century or so. I wonder what the trends would look like if we compared, say, 18th century Britain with Kenya today?

    • Ben says:

      I really appreciate your blog and some of the others I’ve found through your blog. I always have a million thoughts when I read a blog like this. I have to keep reminding some of my friends, how radically life has been changing here in so little time. The historical perspective you mention is so critical.

  2. David Bawks says:

    Ben, I read the article in the Economist (one of the advantages to being home is my dad’s subscription to the Economist). I thought it was really interesting. You didn’t quote it, but the article went on to talk about how birthrates are starting to fall, and if that continues Africa will enjoy a surplus of a labor-aged population. I’m curious to see if Africa will be able to cash in on the demographic dividend or not.
    -David

    • Ben says:

      Nairobi Chronicle – (see link under “Kenya and Africa” on the left) hated the whole thing.

      Bon voyage!! See you Tuesday.

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