Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Problems With Africa's Rapidly Growing Population

No other region will come close to having such a rapid rate of population growth in the coming decades (1.9 percent per year). Africa’s billion only represents 15 percent of world population today, but Africa will account for 49 percent of global population growth over the next four decades.

High fertility rates are driving rapid population growth in Africa. Globally, women are having an average of 2.5 children over the course of their childbearing years. But the average African woman is having nearly 4.5 children (and over 6 in four countries). One consequence of Africa’s high fertility is that a preponderance of its population is young. Twenty-seven percent of the world’s population is under age 15, but in Africa, the figure is 40 percent.

These facts are troubling because population growth is clustered with, and aggravates, other major problems. If you look at all countries in terms of income poverty, water poverty, and the Failed States Index , the 14 countries that rank high on all three, all but one are in Africa (Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Uganda). And the average annual population growth rate of those countries is a whopping 2.6 percent. _Independent

This is a useful article, so I will excerpt roughly 1/3 of the total article below. The author makes some very important points, and reveals some of subSaharan Africa's most pressing problems.
There are three main reasons for pessimism. The first is that even today it struggles to provide for its people. Africa’s population is still growing, even if more slowly because fertility is falling in many countries. And it still faces the classic constraints, identified by Thomas Malthus in the 19th century, of land and water.

Africa today produces less food per head than at any time since independence. Farms are getting smaller, sometimes farcically so. Dividing village plots among sons is like cutting up postage stamps. The average smallholding of just over half an acre (0.25 hectares) is too small to feed a family—hence the continent’s widespread stunting. Africa’s disease burden extends to its animals and crops. Bananas, for example, are subject to two diseases—bunchy top disease and bacterial wilt disease—which can ruin 80% of a harvest. Scientists reckon 30m people who depend on the fruit are at risk; many of them live in conflict zones such as eastern Congo.

...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. In southern Africa, as a result of HIV/AIDS, an increasing number of families are headed by children. A recent report by the African Child Policy Forum, says there are now 50m orphaned or abandoned children in Africa. It thinks the number could rise to 100m, meaning misery for them and more violent crimes for others.

Millions of children already live rough in towns and cities. Prostitution and death await the poorest girls. The boys take to glue, petrol and crime. Africa has the highest rate of child disablement in the world. Some think 10-20% may be disabled, a staggering number.

Throughout Africa the burden of disease weighs heavily. Between them, malaria and HIV/AIDS account for about a third of the continent’s 10m deaths each year. In the ten years to 1995, more than 4m Africans died of AIDS and many countries have ten times as many people living with HIV as have died. Most are between 20 and 59. So HIV/AIDS is damaging that very section of the population—working-age adults—on which the demographic dividend depends.

...Africa’s highest fertility rates are in the refugee and internally displaced camps in Sudan and Somalia, then in those countries recovering from war, then in famine-pocked patches of desert and scrub stretching from Mauritania to Kenya.

Some Africa-watchers fear that parts of the continent may be getting trapped in a downward spiral: more babies mean more competition for resources, more instability—and more babies. Jared Diamond, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, thinks bits of the continent are already suffering a Malthusian collapse of a sort.

...Africa needs a green revolution; more efficient cities; more female education; honest governments; better economic policies. _Independent
It would be expecting too much to think that the author would discuss the elephant in the room -- Africa's famously low average population IQ. Without more high IQ persons in Africa, there will never be a sustainable green revolution, there will not be more efficient cities, there will not be honest governments nor better economic policies. Everything hinges upon Africa somehow acquiring a larger "smart fraction," which will be capable of guiding the many cultures of Africa into a more prosperous and orderly future.

Without an increase in Africa's human capital, the prospects are not only dismal -- they are hopeless.

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