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Can rapid population growth be good for economic development?

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Our generation is experiencing the most profound demographic transition ever and Africa is at the center of it.

Africa’s population is rising rapidly and will most likely double its population by 2050. Depending on the source of data, Africa will soon pass 1 billion people (and it may already have) and could reach up to 2 billion people by 2050 [ I am using the UN’s 2009 World Population Prospects, which projects Africa to exceed 1.7 billion by 2050 based on sharply declining fertility rates]. This makes it the fastest growing continent and Africa’s rapid growth will also shift the global population balance.

By 2050, Africa will be home to more than 20% of the world’s population.  When some of us were born in 1970, there were two Europeans for every African; by the time we may retire in 2030, there will be two Africans for every European.
 
Kenya mirrors Africa’s population growth. The population has doubled over the last 25 years, to about 40 million people, and rapid population growth is set to continue. Kenya’s population will grow by around 1 million per year – 3,000 people every day – over the next 40 years and will reach about 85 million by 2050.

Many think this is a big problem. There are three reasons why I am less certain that the rapid population growth in Africa, especially in Kenya, is the fundamental development challenge:

First, despite Africa’s rapid population growth and Europe’s stagnation (even decline in few countries) the old continent remains much more densely populated than Africa. If we look at Western Europe – where I come from – there are on average 170 people living on each square km. In Sub-Saharan Africa there are only 70 today. This gap will narrow in the next decades but even by 2050, Western Europe is expected to be more densely populated than Africa. I am following the population debates in Europe, especially in my (densely populated) home country Germany. I have never heard anyone argue that there are too many people in Europe.

Second, while the speed of population growth remains unchanged, its sources are different. In the past, population growth was driven by increasing numbers of children.  Today, and in the future, it is driven by longer life expectance and the “base effect” of the previous population boom. There are just many more young families which have children. However, they have fewer of them.  In Kenya, the number of children per family has fallen sharply, from 8.1 children in 1978 to 4.6 children in 2008, and by 2050 it may reach 2.4. As a result, the fastest growing group in Kenya’s population is not anymore young children – but adults which will almost triple in size from 21 million today to about 60 million in 2050. (see figure 1).

Figure 1 - Kenya today (2010) and tomorrow (2050) – Double the population but not many more children


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Source: World Bank computations based on United Nations, 2009, World Population Prospects

Third, population growth and urbanization go together, and economic development is closely correlated with urbanization. Rich countries are urban countries.  No country has ever reached high income levels with low urbanization. Population growth increases density and, together with rural-urban migration, creates higher urban agglomeration.  And this is critical for achieving sustained growth because large urban centers allow for innovation and increase economies of scale. Companies can produce goods in larger numbers and more cheaply, serving a larger number of low-income customers. Kenya has companies which have been benefitting from increasing population growth and density in targeting the large numbers of lower and lower-middle income groups – the “bottom of the pyramid”. Their business model is viable because they can serve a multi-million customer base, which has increased by 25% over the last 10 years and which continues to grow rapidly.

Are we thus ahead of golden age of development in Africa? It is possible but there is no guarantee. This will depend on many other factors as well. As the last decades have shown larger population and increased population density are no guarantee of success. However, it seems that the current pattern of population growth is not the main constraint to Africa’s development anymore and can even be a positive force.

Any views?

Comments

Submitted by Cecilia Dei-Anang on
I appreciate your belief that increased population does not necessarily spell more trouble, or the hindrance of development, for Africa. My concern is how quickly the gap of "realistic" education and the adoption of regenerative health, as a lifestyle, in African countries can be closed. In other words, we need capable civil servants to ensure that dying systems of governance are revived to cope with a larger population of older adults. As we say, "..there is strength in numbers..." so I remain the optimist.

Submitted by Wolfgang on
Thanks much for your post. I can't agree more. The broader question - and I don't think a lot of new research has been done on this - is: Will the ongoing demographic transformation with rapid urbanization as well as other factors (e.g. telcom revolution) put more pressure on governments to improve their performance?

Submitted by Stanléy on
A very interesting post, and one worth discussion. It is apt you have also introduced urbanization into the debate. I'm sure as the head of the East African division of the World Bank, you would have seen the impacts on high rates of urbanization and stocks of existing infrastructure. There are cities that were built to accommodate under 500 000, many are now home to three times that figure, and are growing yet. What it does is push up inflation and lowers living standards. Many of the local councils have been unable to keep up with increased population and improve service delivery. I agree it does increase business opportunities with a greater customer base for firms that produce products that are aimed at them, but the biggest issue really does come to can local and national governments invest for this reality? Cities need to be enlarged, infrastructure needs to be added and charges for utilities need to be nominated to consumers. It is a multi variable issue, but one that does deserve wider discussion on this new reality facing the continent.

Submitted by Wolfgang on
Stanley, you are putting your finger on a crucial issue which is only now gaining more attention: urban infrastructure. Not only African cities are facing congestion, many (lower) middle-income countries have the same challenges. However, as the World Development Report 209 highlights almost all rich countries had similar problems some 100 years ago (and Singapore just 40 years ago). So it is possible to deal with it but it is not easy as it needs large-scale infrastructure upgrading. Wolfgang

Submitted by BORNFACE on
how do we address urban giantism

Submitted by JDesai on
It is so refreshing to see a more balanced view on population growth in Africa. I remember a discussion with Hans Binswanger back in 1997 about this and he too held the view that the Asian conclusion did not apply to Africa. In my Mozambique household survey (for the Bank) I collected data on farmers' attitudes towards constraints on agricultural production and land pressure (the prime route for the diminishing marginal productivity rationale of population growth) were not the most important constraint cited by farmers. A whole generation of African demographers has been brainwashed by the "population lobby" in Washington which has held fast to the belief that population growth is bad for development - despite the 1986 NAS report which showed there was no good evidence for this view. Soon after the Coale-Hoover simulation model there were Julian Simon-'s simulation models that showed that the opposite result, but unfortunately all of that got dumped by the political rhetoric of the times (Simon's view became the basis for the Reagan government's turnaround in the population conferences). USAID has kept funding population growth projects for years - with different names RAPDID, OPTIONS, POLICY - because the population lobby in DC refuses to let any other voice be heard. This is not to say that reproductive health and women's empowerment are unimportant aspects of limiting fertility, but that is a separate issue. If you make the case that population growth in countrlies like Kenya (and maybe even Ethiopia) is not the main development problem, then there are so many other countries with much lower population density, and more arable land, where the "population growth is bad for development" argument falls flat. A Boserupian model makes a whole lot more sense in African countries with low population density because small-scale, scattered, subsistence agriculture makes agricultural marketing less viable (fixed costs are too high).

Submitted by AR on
I ask myself if African countries, with their often weak institutions can cooperate among themselves and work out and apply a sustainable water management system. Water is going to be a huge issue in the years to come. It has been more than 10 years since Nile Basin countries started negotiating a framework of cooperation and they still can't agree. Without trying to sound prejudiced, the less democratic forms of government usually seen in Africa are rather likely to engage in populist policies or even warfare to avoid addressing this issue. I think population growth is only going to add stress to this issue, rather than relief. Let's hope I am being to pessimistic.

Submitted by Stefano Barazzetta on
Thank you for your interesting blog, Mr. Fengler. During the last days I have been surfing the web trying to understand where the "population growth vs. economic growth" debate is heading. Quite curiously, yesterday I have found an article by The Economist that offers 3 reasons NOT to be optimistic about what the outcome od African demographic transition will be. (http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14302837) Basically, what The Economist says is: 1-"Even today Africa struggles to provide for its people. Africa today produces less food per head than at any time since independence. If it is to feed its people, Africa badly needs a green revolution" 2-"Africa’s families are under greater strain than Asia’s or Latin America’s were when their demographic transitions first began" 3-"The third reason for pessimism is Africa’s political violence, corruption and weak or non-existent governing institutions. According to the Harvard study, “institutional quality [is vital] for converting growth of the working-age share into a demographic dividend.” Of course ther can't be just one aswer to your question, but I'd like to know your opinion about the above mentioned points. Best, Stefano

Submitted by Wolfgang on
Stefano, Thanks a lot for this thoughtful reply. Africa's ongoing demographic transformation can be a positive factor for the coming decade(s) - but it does not have to be as you rightly highlight. The better Africa's economies are doing the more fertility will declines because the two go together. On your specific points: Agriculture. Yes Africa needs a better performing agriculture sector and larger markets (i.e. people) can help as you get more economies of scale. There are a number of agro-industries emerging (see my previous blog) but they are still too few and overall too weak. However, not every country needs to be self sufficient in production. Singapore has never been and seems to be doing fine. But agriculture trade policy and reform is a very thorny issue all over the world. Asia and Latin America's demographic transition. I am interested to see the evidence. In Asia it started more than 2 decades ago but there is variation between and within continents. The key question is: even if families are indeed under greater strain, can the improving dependency ratios and rapid urbanization contribute to better economic development? Poor governance. I agree with the essence of your point (see also my other responses). However, we in the World Bank have been seeing a substantial improvement of policies across Africa (see CPIA indicators) over the last years. The response to the global crisis has been exceptionally strong. But in terms of several of the governance/anti-corruption indicators Africa is still lagging the other parts of the World. Thanks again Wolfgang

Submitted by carlos ROCHA on
Deal all . Africa has the natural resources that the world needs. Africa is one of the fastest growing market. Young population, Africa will be the next frontier of growth. Why, China, EU, USA wanted Africa? Sure Africa needs to "update" rule of law and corruption, also good governance. they are many good examples in Africa. Last, Africa has a territory that bigger then USA, Europe, China, India, altoghether best carlos

Submitted by Anonymous on
thanks for the info it really helped me with my report on how population growth affects economies of different countries thank you

Submitted by Tom Merrick on
The optimism expressed in Mr. Fengler’s blog about the benefits of a larger population for Kenya probably stem from comments by such pundits as Fareed Zakaria, who have noted that countries with larger populations (China and India, for example) tend to do better in today’s global economy than small, land-locked ones. The blog reports that the UN’s medium variant projections put Kenya’s population at 85 million in the year 2050. Because of the momentum of Kenya's current demographics, that's a pretty sure bet. The real question is whether Kenya will be better off getting to that level as rapidly as possible, as suggested by the blog's title, and whether that path will be beneficial. Both India and China experienced rapid declines in fertility that created bulges in their working-age populations. These bulges, combined with good economic and social policies, generated a demographic dividend with faster economic growth and poverty reduction. Mr. Fengler hopes to see a similar dividend in Kenya. There are some important “ifs” embedded in this optimism. One is that the population projection on which his optimism is based assumes a fairly rapid decline in fertility. Another is that Kenya will invest adequately in health and education and adopt policies to employ its working-age population boomers productively. Kenya’s fertility decline stalled at around 4.6 births per woman over the last decade. Growing to 85 million population may turn out to be good for Kenya, but how good (if at all) depends on how fast Kenya can provide quality education and reproductive health services for the poor women who do not have them now, as well as the sound economic policies that helped China and India become burgeoning economic powers.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Does this mean that Africa is poised to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend then?

Submitted by Wolfgang on
What do you think? Basically it is like with development in general: It is possible (see East Asia) but it is not inevitable (see Africa) My main argument is: Keep watching population dynamics but be less worried if the demographic transition is already happening and dependency ratios decline. In support of many of the other responses I would focus more on the underlying factors which have held Africa back: Governance, infrastructure, and social services. With rapid urbanization there are many possible positive dynamics.

Submitted by Tom on
I also appreciate the different and somewhat more positive analysis the author provides of population growth in Kenya. However, apart from the comments already provided, it is important not to forget about the scarcity of resources. Unlike Europe, most African countries are not self sufficient in terms of food production. I wonder how the additional millions of Kenyans will be able to feed themselves, let alone if they have to rely on imported products. It would be interesting to turn to some analyses from more populous countries in Africa (Nigeria, Ethiopia, DRC) and investigate to what extent they can attribute their limited socio-economic achievements to population growth.

Submitted by Josephat Sanda on
Personally I am not worried at all with the projected increase in our population in Africa. To me I see a lot of positive things with increased population than negative ones. We meed to take advantage of major breakthroughs in Science and Technology and ensure our continent is connected through ICT and we train a critical mass of world class scientists and ICT experts. We have the resources let us use them prudently. Along the same line, we need to establish special universities for Africa as well as a state of the art 24 hour Pan-Africa Television which needs to be on air before the end of 2016 with more tham 20 channels. Dar Es Salaam Tanzania

Submitted by Mr. Lowe on
Dear Joseph, Thanks for comment. In reply to your blog, I think you are just been optimistic. Anyway, I keep hold of Thomas Malthus View: " population grow at a geometric rate while food supply increase at an arithmetic rate. His line of reasoning is that over time population growth will outspace food supply on earth which I believe some african countries are currently going through or if not at the verge of seeing it. The development equation for Africa is not only about ICT or having african universities for Africans. On my own stance point, I don't see development as something that should be imposed nor is it accidental. But must be calculated and implemented. We (Africa) need calculated time intentional for our development. Additionally, dignity of labor and self sufficiency are among the most appropriate wayforward for any nation's development.

Submitted by Marco d'Errico on
Dear Wolfgang, thank you so much for this interesting post. I went through the Kenya Economic Update you worked out last December, and then came here looking for other news on Kenya. I was thinking about the first argument you use to support your idea. Well, I don't think you can compare actual Europe with actual Kenya. The fact that population density in the old continent was more than double time that of Kenya doesn't imply that Kenya economy could feed as much people as Europe did. But, indeed, I do believe that population growth may be a chance to Africa as an whole and to Kenya in particular. It all depends on whether infrastructural and structural reforms will be implemented or not. Clearly, I'm really scared about disparities, as that of large farmer gaining advantages by NCPB and high food prices and small holder farmer and other net buyers carrying on the burden. But we'll find the way! I hope!

Submitted by Hudson Lucky Masheti on
The English classical economists, notably John Stuart Mill, discussed diminishing returns in the context of population growth. They said that population tended to diminish the average return to labour. More workers would have to be employed in producing food for the growing population. But the total amount of the land was fixed. Therefore output per worker would fall, thereby lowering standards of living, as more labour was combined with a given amount of land. It was true that, as population increased some land not formally used might be brought into cultivation, yet standards of living would fall owing to diminishing returns to labour upon the given area of better land already cultivated. In agriculture, therefore, output per worker would tend to fall because each worker on the average would be assisted by a smaller amount of land than before. In manufacturing, however, output per worker would tend to increase. For machinery is taking the place of hand labour and it seemed probable that, as time went on, each worker on the average would be assisted by more capital than before. Great majority of the population were employed and had to be employed on the land. Food is the basic need of mankind. When incomes are low, they are spent mainly on food. So long as the labour of one man on the land provides food for little more than one family, the bulk of the population must be engaged in agriculture. Unless productivity of labour could be increased in agriculture, standards of living are bound to fall as population continues to grow. Hence not surprising that the English classical economists advocated a reduction in birth rates in order that standards of living might be maintained and improved instead of being forced down by population pressure. In late 1840s, there was little indication of great developments in transport that would enable Great Britain to be fed in wheat from Canada, beef from the Argentine, mutton from Australia etc. Still less could anybody expect to foresee what is called “the industrial revolution in agriculture” – the invention and improvement of machines eg; combine harvester- that has produced spectacular results in increasing output per worker Populations have expanded greatly but, at any rate in the Western world, there has been a marked and continuous increase in the returns to labour, in agriculture and other industries, over the past hundred years. The tendency to diminishing returns might be counteracted for a time by “the progress of knowledge”. No doubt they were thinking of the kinds of improvements that have been taking place since about the middle of the eighteenth century – discoveries such as better methods of controlling pests and diseases of plants and animals, etc. But they thought that the tendency of diminishing returns was always present and would prevail in the ling-run if population continued to grow. Hudson Lucky Masheti Kenya {East Africa}

Submitted by Doug on
Income per capita in many African countries is below where it was in 1950, while the populations in places like Tanzania have gone from 7 million to 44 million. In some 18 African countries, over 70% of workers work in Agriculture. You need land to produce food. Africa does not have enough food. That Germany has a denser population is utterly irrelevant -- Africa cannot apply the same agriculture technology as Germany b/c the climate and soil conditions are completely different. This stuff is not rocket science, but demographics and agriculture are far and away the two key issues in African development, or in development anywhere, anytime, anyplace...

Submitted by Anonymous on
Dear Mr. Fengler, you said, that no country has ever reached high income levels with low urbanization. That might be through, but also no country has ever reached high income levels with a high fertility rate (TFR) (with exception of the oil-producing countries). You just have to compare the actual TFR and the HDI-rank of all countries. And the TFRs in almost all African countries are still very high and have a big influence on the actual population growth, while the life expectancy in some countries is fallen again because of the HIV/Aids-pandemic. Therefore, in my opinion, population growth is a challenge for Africa’s development, because all successes in the sectors of education, labor market, economic growth, health, ... are devoured by the growing number of people (see also the (missing) achievements of the Millenium Development Goals in most African countries). So, I would be pleased, if yo can give any real evidence that population growth might have an positive effect. Sincerely, F. Kowalski

Submitted by richard grant on
You ignore an absolutely fundamental difference between Africa and Europe, and this is the amount of rainfall. In arid or semi-arid environments, like south and east Africa and the Sahel, you can only support the numbers you are envisaging through food aid, or possibly by mining aquifers, but this would be a short-term solution

Submitted by F. DE CONZ on
Mr Fengler, I consider your argument quite convincing, and useful in bringing up the issue (and showing its importance) of demographic transition in Africa. Stefano is quoting "Th Economist" to partially caution yr "optimism" but the same Economist, several weeks back, published an interesting account of demographic transition in Latin America, a key factor in explaining current positive economic performance of that sub continent. The core of the matter seems to be then how to "put at work" the more people who are healthier and better educated. The real challenge has not much changed: how to create the most suitable environment for this key "resource" to produce "development". Finally, in recent years aggregate GDP growth in Sub-saharan Africa has been higher ( 2000-08 average 4.7 per cent ) than population growth: one more reason to be optimistic.

Submitted by Satish Lakhani on
Dear Mr.Wolfgang, I say,My Dear,let us think First of eradicating poverty from the entire world not rapid population growth for economic development. Next comes atleast basic education for all. For economic development you dont need man power,western world is super fast in developing automatic computerised machines which can produce one month's consumption in one day. Freind ! Let us all educated and whole of Buerocracy work for the eradication of poverty world over. Agriculture should be the prime object and concern of each country.Every country's economic growth depends mainly on Agriculture first and then Industries. Love to everyone in the forum. Satish

Submitted by basil on
u cant achieve high economic growth with raising population

Submitted by YASIR on
What cause urbanization are other factors such as rapid population growth, education, health facilities, job opportunities, unemployment, technology in agriculture sector cause redundancy, better living standards, feudal system, entretainment facilities etc. People choose to migrate bcoz they want to earn more and send back their earnings to their struggling families. Cities are more centralized in respect of services, money and wealth. I want to know either controlling population growth will lead to development or making new urban centre's, bcoz the trend is living in urban areas, as per person output or efficiency increase/?

Submitted by Lucinda on
I agree a higher population would lead to smaller cost of production but you then went on to say that therefore the price of the output would be cheaper and more affordable. Don't you think this wouldnt neccessarily be true as if one is assuming factors of production are cheaper then the assumptiuon is workers are being paid less so in real terms the price may not be cheaper?

Submitted by Anonymous on
Of course people don't think there are too many people in Europe. The question here is not whether there are, currently, too many people but rather whether the demographic shifts, coinciding with an increase in arid, dry land and a rapidly changing global climate will mean large, displaced groups of people unable to thrive in their extant conditions long before the economy and agricultural technology (as mentioned in a post above) are able to catch up. Further, the exacerbated burden any growing economy places on the Earth's climate should be of global concern. Evidence suggests that rapidly growing populations draw down heavily on the Earth's resources and decrease our ability to adapt to climate change. As the Earth's resources become increasingly strained, there is little reason to think that a rapidly growing population without the technology, stable governance or national policy to help attend to its needs in the short term will increase maternal deaths, overburden education systems, impinge on efforts to adapt to climate change, increase political instability in the long-term and many more intractable and difficult problems. While your arguments concerning the growth of the adult population (signifying a developing and increasingly stable economy) and the potential for economic growth that could potentially accompany this population growth are well-taken and strong points. You fail to consider that the burden this places on the climate may be deleterious to economic prosperity.

@BASIL : u cant achieve high economic growth with raising population --> I don't think so. If it was the case, there would be no economic growth in South-East Asian countries...

Submitted by Wolfgang on
Well, I think this has has the history of mankind: Rising population and rising population. It has also been the case in Asia: from 2.5 in 1975 billion to some 4 billion today. Which populatilon numbers are you working off?

Submitted by Anonymous on
Hi Wolfgan, We see that urbanization is increasing rapidly in the developing world, what do you think will be the impact of this socioeconomic change?

Submitted by stuart Grubb on
If we are talking about Kenya then Ok, but as for the rest of the continent? Why the green fertile belt goes though Kenya, Uganda, the Congos and not much further, southern sudan, and an few more countries. but that makes Kenya already the main importer of foods to Uganda, Tanzania and the main player in East Africa. as you say Kenya is aiming imports though Africa, and it also supports many of the countries in the green belt due to the quantity or lack of they produce. so kenya is doing it ? who is owning this land? mainly Governmental or companies with invested interest in that particular government so Nothing new their? so again the rich get richer. can other countries step up like Kenya ? with poor roads, added cost of maintainable vehicals, and high fuel prices this all adds up as you say, Infrastructural, i say, challenges are huge and the income is not their to pay for it, more people move to the capital seeking work? allot of these cities were build 50 years ago, sickness and sanitation, again not the money, or the will to do it, OK Kigali has but that is not a large city by any means more of a town? i share and agree with high population can bring a prosperity. but i also agree that the average wage being 30 dollars a month? in truth i am with you, but in hart it will take allot longer than 50 years witch takes us to your population prediction of 2061. and Africa will still be trying to sort out agriculture when it should already be on with industry? especially in rural area? we are and will be one step behind, government is the key, but they dont listen? and wont be moved like they say its a job for life, president in Africa no matter how much you mess up because 90% of the people dont understand and dont know what good governance is because they have never had it, education is no were in rural areas? and is way behind standards in the city. im no expert but when you say "With rapid urbanization there are many possible positive dynamics". Nigeria and Uganda are the fasted growing countries population wise in the world, so i here? or maybe thats just africa i even have to query your professionalism? as an African to say, or name what we have, what we have built, what we want and most of all who will pay? is unlikely. i would love to make a road map, plan for Africa because its so easy, instead we end up with document after document of extremely overpaid bodies giving their sympathetic nod the the ones above, how many NGO's how many government aid schemes, the money they waste, they could of built Dubai, go in rural Africa the truth is they are not their? So we know one thing? the population will grow living conditions may, if your lucky not to live in a war zone or, brutal dictatorship, improve slightly in some developed areas, but dont be expecting paradise when it could so easily be, So one i agree, with you, but they are too many underlined fundamental problems that talk will not solve, in any African so called Organisation? and African agriculture on large scale is one of the most corrupt industry in the world if not No 1. pay the people and they will work, like someone said previosly the Nile basin deal hasnt been done yet, or anyother thing that was supposed to be done 10 yrs ago? Still trying to live the dream, as always good luck everyone and thanks for reading Wolfgang keep up the good work, just wondering is that a Surinam's for Governance of Africa,

Submitted by Laura on
I found the article very interesting and it is a different view. It is great to see things in a different way. However, I still believe it is a very optimistic portray of reality. I think that population growth in very poor families will only add to poverty. Very poor families sometimes can't afford to send their children to school, and even when they can they don't do it since their children must start working at a young age to contribute to the family. Usually, very educated people tend to have less children, so the increasing population would be mostly the poor and uneducated, who would benefit more if they could afford to send their children to school, to have the means for good family planning, etc. It is true that businesses could benefit, but in most private businesses only the heads see the rewards. Just look at China, where the population is so big, and factories hire thousands of people that only make a little bit of money. It is therefore, more important to have a better quality of life as a country, than to have a few very rich which might even cause more corruption. Also, I don't think it would be beneficial for anyone, and just think of the environment, since even though there is a lot of land that could still be used, as this land is used for farming, or other human purposes it will greatly deteriorate the environment. We also have more knowledge today, and a greater population than ever before. I think to create large cities in Africa it would be better to create great cities where large populations could relocate, instead of just using every inch of land available. Third, even though many developed countries have dense populations, one main reason for this is immigration. It is human nature to seek what is better for us, so an increasing population in a poor country could lead to more immigration to developed countries, causing denser populations. I think the real goal would be to educate the already large enough poor population of the world, give them new opportunities, help them plan their families, and as this is done create more countries that offer a good quality of life.

Submitted by frontalier on
I think it's good but it should never be too rapid.

Submitted by Anonymous on
If high population growth does not cause poverty what cause poverty then?

Submitted by Abdulrahman Abdu on
On the world map, the Federal Republic of Nigeria is located about 10 degrees north of the equator at the western coast of Africa. The Federal republic of Nigeria or Nigeria for short is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous country in the world. Nigeria has a total land area of about 924,000 square kilometers about 1.5 percent of which is covered with water. Nigeria has a total population of about 155 million people (followed by Ethiopia the second most populous country in Africa with about 86 million people) with the population growth rate around 2 percent. Nigeria shares borders with the republic of Niger in the North, the republic of Cameroon and Chad in the east, the republic of Benin in the west and the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Guinea) in the south. Nigeria comprises of 36 different states with Abuja (Abuja has a total land area of about 713 square kilometers and a population of about 900000 people) being the federal capital of Nigeria. Nigeria comprises of about 250 different ethnic groups with Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa being the three most dominant ethnic groups. There are more than 550 different languages spoken in Nigeria today (according to history, Nigeria had about 1500 different languages most of which are dead due to outside influence) with English being the official language and Pigdin (broken English) being the street language. Although just about 50% of the total population above age 15 can read and write English Language, almost the entire population do speak and understand pidgin which helps a lot in communication especially on the streets. Most African countries especially the English speaking countries such as Ghana also speak and understand pidgin which helps a lot in communication between these countries.Although not border neighbors, Ghana and Nigeria share a lot in common more than any other countries in Africa. Nigeria is a very rich country in terms of natural resources and wildlife. Nigeria is an oil rich country and one of the leading oil exporters in the world today. Despite the abundance of natural resources and the beauty of Nigeria, Nigeria has the largest poor population in Africa. Nigeria unlike Ghana or any other African country suffers the most from population explosion. CORRUPTION, poor management of funds, political instability and poor governance continue to tear Nigeria apart. Nigeria is the most corrupt country in Africa with very high unemployment rates. Almost all political figures in Nigeria today engage themselves in corrupt activities leaving the people with nothing but extreme poverty and hunger. Although Nigeria has many graduates, most of them end up on the streets with nothing at all to do after college. Most of these unemployed graduates engage themselves in online internet scam and fraud (popularly known as 419 business) just to survive. Between 50-60 percent of the Nigerian population live below poverty line. Most people have given up on education because they find nothing useful to do with their certificates after college. These days you see children of school-going age roaming about on the streets doing petty trading. About 3 to 5 million of the Nigerian population are living with HIV/AIDS and most children on the streets have lost either one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. Ethnic and religious conflicts especially between Muslims and Christians also worsen the situation in certain parts of Nigeria today.

Submitted by ALEXANDER M on
ThanK u so much for this well formulated article. The advantages of growing population were considered and discussed but the ultimate challenge is ,high population cannot foster the economy when the largest portion is poor. Thus for the high population to be relevant,the population is supposed to be having the purchasing power to buy the good and service.when the purchasing power is visible then the population can form a good market for the goods and services which will encourage investment hence job creation and economic growth. However if the population is comprised of poverty striken citizens like as it is in most african countries then expect doom.Therefore for high population to be relevant ,majority of the population are supposed to be above the povert line.

Submitted by Anonymous on
The only positive outcome from Africa's rapid population growth is that they'll serve as "canaries in a coal mine" to the rest of the world. It's completely absurd and irresponsible to people to even THINK that good things could come from RPG on countries that are already struggling to survive with their current populations starvation and diseases and wars are what we are going to see in africa and in many other places due to overpopulation

'Kicking so many cans down the road' and denying responsibility for our reckless overconsumption, relentless overproduction and rampant overpopulation activities today can fulfill nothing more than the promise of a disastrous future for children everywhere tomorrow. Choosing now to live outrageously greedy lifestyles that are soon to become patently unsustainable provides all the wrong lessons to our children, who must learn to live sustainably before it is too late for human behavior change to make a difference.

Submitted by YONATAN on
RAPID POPULATION GROWTH IS NOT GOOD FOR AFRICA BECAUSE RAPIDE POPULATION MUST GO WITH RAPID INFANT STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT SO THAT FOR AFRICA IT IS VERY BASIC TO SLOW DAWON THE POPULATION GROWTH RATE MUST GO WITH THE TH EECCONOMIC GROWT RATE

Submitted by Anonymous on
The vicous cycle is: Too poor to have more children, too many children make us too poor.

Submitted by Anonymous on
population is increasing rapidly than food suppy.our economy is under pressure of satisfying every 1 need. it is also increasing environmental degradation and pollution

Submitted by Ibrahim uthman on
When there is a positive change in economic growth,how will it get to the people in the rural area as you know the kind of govt we have in nigeria

Submitted by Sam on
Its hard to say but Africa would need to be less corrupted at ebginning to stand a chance, i mean if you send 1 millions dollars to lets say Nigeria, they will be 9. 999 000 for average corrupted guys to put the money in their pocket...

Submitted by paul oloche on
How can a young individual(a student) in this kind of environment creat wealth inspite the deadness of situation. the challage to start small is presently high compering it with starting big.how do we move fromhere?

Your very interesting piece appears to share the increasingly positive; and as it were, alternative thinking, to the mainstream of western perception of Africa and its future. Being a journalist, my interactions in the last three five years or so with different opinion builders and decision makers on the continent have informed my acceptance of your conclusion that Africa's increased population is likely to be an asset and not a liability; markets will come into existence and grow; urbanization will deepen the points for large scale development and bigger economic growth. Africa of today is not Africa of 10 years ago and will certainly not be the same Africa 20 years from now. Despite its problems, an increasing number of educated class and a widening middle class is bound to impact positively on the continent. You got the points on dot. Permit me also to re-publish this piece in Baobab Africa People & Economy magazine.

Submitted by Rober2D2 on
Nobody told you that we are too many in Europe? Then I will tell: We are too many. We have problems in energy supply, problems to find an affordable home to live, traffic jams, unemployment.... We would be much better with half of our current population. I agree that urbanization is good for echonomical growth, but there is no need of population growth to achieve that. Countries like Sweeden have very low population densities, but they are urbanized and prosperous countries. Urbanization comes when beter agricultural techniques are used, and less people is needed to produce food. England for example became more urban because of industrial revolution, not because of an spectacular population growth.

Submitted by DaviK on
Comparing living standards between the EU and Africa would be more realistic if you compared ecological footprint per capita between the two. The average European's footprint - or the amount of natural resources that are required to sustain their lifestyle - far exceeds that of the average African, and is not one that the world as a whole, with present technologies and western resources usage rates, could sustain for everyone. And you forget that Europe imports huge quantities of food, metals and other resources from Africa. Were these to be withheld in order to facilitate African use, then presumably the standard of living in the EU would decline. So Europe may well have a denser population and yet still enjoy a high standard of living. But it's because the resource foundation upon which that is based is far outside of Europe's boundaries. A principal benefit, apart from economic efficiencies, of urbanisation is that it draws people off the land and so reduces environmental over exploitation and degradation. Although that only holds true if rural areas are then properly managed, given that those areas still have to feed the urban areas. So it's not 'rapid population growth' that would be good for Africa, as your title suggests, it's the migration of people into urban areas, in a well managed way that avoids slums, and that goes hand in hand with sustainable management of the rural areas to provide food and also preserve ecosystems. Does Africa have the institutional, judicial and financial resources to achieve this as quickly as her population is growing. I suspect that, sadly, she doesn't. It is possible to have too many people. Forget for a moment about averaging populations to such ideas as '4.6 people per football field' or whatever. Economic growth calls for more resources, and more people with higher incomes use more resources. We do happen to share this planet with other creature and ecosystems which are dependent upon us, as we are dependent upon them. Leave them some space. More people may well lead to increased industrial output at lower marginal costs, increasing per unit affordability and raising material standards of living, but remember that this model has traditionally ignored environmental and resource impacts (and sometimes social impacts as well) as 'externalities'. If such costs are 'internalised', a different picture of what constitutes desirable development may emerge. We need a population size that's in balance with resources, not a blind belief that more is better. There is an optimum level. There are also boundaries that can't be transgressed without cost. As Africa emerges, I hope she finds a way to leapfrog the process of industrialisation that has damaged so much of Europe (and Africa), and move to a more sustainable, gentler way of living. Then maybe we in Europe can follow.

Submitted by Oeuvrer .org on
It's realy a very bad vicous cycle if you are too poor you can have a real familly always thinking in money not like and if you have too many children it's the same too many cost, education, medicine etc... we don't have a solution in the XXI century

Submitted by CAA on

Thanks very much for this very interesting article. In a previous blog, you mentioned that the manufacturing sector, that was previously the second largest sector in the economy and is now the fourth, only accounts for 10% of the economy. While urbanisation provides opportunities for innovation,which would mean technology growth, the manufacturing sector also has to expand to take in both the technology as well as the population growth. Perhaps devolution will take care of this. I have to say, the demographic dynamics, that is, increase in life expectancy which means in a few years the working age population grows and this also reduces dependancy, has me very optimistic. Nevertheless, the government statistic of 70% unemployment rate amongst the youth puts a bit of a dumper on this outlook.

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