On Africa’s Demographics

This is from The Economist:

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 12.03.13 PMSub-Saharan Africa’s dependency ratio (the population younger than 20 and older than 64 versus the population between those ages) is 129:100, compared with 65:100 in Europe. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to have a worse dependency ratio than Europe even in 2050.

… There is nothing inherently African about large families. Botswana’s fertility rate is 2.6, down from 6.6 in 1960. South Africa’s rate is 2.4. And although the UN has a good record of predicting global population growth, it has got fertility projections badly wrong in individual countries. Sudden baby busts in countries like Brazil, Iran and Thailand caught almost everyone out. Could Africa also spring a surprise?

Read the whole thing here.

On balance, I am less alarmed by population growth in Africa than most observers. Female gross secondary school enrollment is at an all time high. Urbanization is apace. Family sizes are most likely to shrink at faster rates than anticipated by current models.

African Demographics

The Economist has a piece on the delayed demographic dividend on the Continent, citing research that argues that African states should do more to reduce fertility rates (through family planning) with a view of mitigating potential problems arising from an uncontrollable youth bulgeImage

“There were 411m African children in 2010, aged 14 years or below. By 2050 there will be 839m, according to the UN’s high variant. Educating all those young minds will be expensive. It is true that there will also be lots of new arrivals into the labour force, who should be able to earn the money to pay for their younger siblings to go to school. In 2010 there were roughly 200m Africans between 15 and 24 years of age and this number could rise to over 450m by 2050. But the African Development Bank pointed out in 2012 that only a quarter of young African men and just 10% of young African women manage to get jobs in the formal economy before they reach the age of 30. The vast majority of young Africans will continue to have precarious employment—a worrying prospect.”

This is yet another reason for African governments and development economists to start thinking seriously about industrial development and manufacturing.

ImageThat said, the alarmists over Africa’s impending demographic disaster should tone it down a little. Let’s not forget that one of the reasons the Continent has lagged behind in the economic growth and political development stakes in the last few centuries has been its historical sparse population density and abundance of cultivatable land (to get a clear idea on this read this great book on states and power in Africa).

Furthermore, as Max Fisher over at the Post pointed out last year (see above) Africa’s high fertility rates will come with benefits, with the region’s dependency ratio projected to decline even as it rises for the rest of the world. 


the demographic origins of poverty and statelessness

A very low population density may be at the heart of Africa’s historical under-performance when it comes to territorial state-formation and economic development. Bad geography, the very high disease burden and mediocre leadership, among other variables, may be but secondary causal explanations for Africa’s underdevelopment. The proximate cause may be how these secondary variables have affected and/or interacted with population density.

OK. That was a weak argument, but check this out.