We assess Africa’s prospects for enjoying a demographic dividend. While fertility rates and dependency ratios in Africa remain high, they have started to decline. According to UN projections, they will fall further in the coming decades such that by the mid-21st century the ratio of the working-age to dependent population will be greater than in Asia, Europe, and Northern America. This projection suggests Africa has considerable potential to enjoy a demographic dividend. Whether and when it actually materializes, and also its magnitude, hinges on policies and institutions in key realms that include macroeconomic management, human capital, trade, governance, and labor and capital markets. Given strong complementarities among these areas, coordinated policies will likely be most effective in generating the momentum needed to pull Africa’s economies out of a development trap.
They do not drive SUVs. Some have never even seen a light bulb. But according to research one of the most effective ways of preventing climate change is to ensure that poor women in the developing world do not have a lot of children.
Because of their advertised positive impact, I used to be a proponent of
population control family planning programs in the developing world. And then I saw the data and changed my mind. Reducing the number of people being born in the developing world will not reduce the effects of climate change. What needs to happen is a change in consumption habits in the West and among the upper classes in the developing world. The poor too need to stop cutting down trees for charcoal. But we should not push them into having less children and make it a climate change issue. They are not responsible. Those responsible should change their consumption habits and perhaps invest in providing alternatives to charcoal for the poor.
Maureen Dowd’s column highlights the deep crisis in which the Catholic church has found itself in the aftermath of the many cases of sexual abuse across Europe and the United States. Like Dowd, I am also a Catholic who is deeply disturbed by the Church’s apparent intransigence and inexplicable inflexibility in the face of problems like HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases on the Continent.
The Church must reform. And I believe it will. Sweeping cases of priests molesting 200 deaf children under the carpet is simply not doable.
Similarly, condemning millions of people to their graves by putting spiritual sanctions against their use of known methods of disease prevention is also wrong. As the Church reacts to and adjusts in the face of the backlash in the West over the abuse cases it should also be reminded of the consequences of its anti-contraceptive policies in the developing world, particularly in Africa.
I should point out that even as I criticize the Church and its policies on the Continent I am aware of its importance as an institution. The Church runs schools, hospitals… etc etc. Indeed in my lifetime I have attended no less than three Catholic-run schools.