UNITED NATIONS POPULATION INFORMATION NETWORK (POPIN)
UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

POPULATI0N AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA , OAU & ECA

 

 

 

             POPULAT10N AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA 





                     A Briefing Note

 

                       Prepared by



 

              Organization  of African, Unity (OAU)

 

                          and 

 

              Economic commission for Africa (ECA)  

 

 

 

 

 

               POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA 



 

 

I. The Basic Issues: Population Growth and the Quality of Life

 

In recent years an increasing number of African people are  being added 

every year This was not always the cas these population increases are 

unprecedented in history. But the problem of  population is not simply a 

problem of numbers  It is a problem of human welfare and of development 

Rapid population  growth can have serious consequences for the well-

being of humanity worldwide. If development entails the improvement in 

people's level of living - their incomes ,health, education and general 

well-being - and if it also encompasses their self esteem, respect 

dignity and freedom of choice then the really impotant question  about 

population growth is how does the contemporary  

 

population situation in many African countries contribute to or detract 

from their chances of realizing the goals of development,  not only for 

the current generation but also for the future generations? Convrsely, 

how does development affect population growth?   

 

 

The major issues relationg to this basic question are the following: 

 

(1) The improvement in the level of living: Will African  countries(?s 

be capable  of improving the levels of living for  their people with the 

current and anticipated  levels of population growth? To extent does 

rapid population increase make it more difficult  to provide essential 

social services including housing , transport,  sanitation, and 

security?   

 

(2) Increase labour forces and the problem of   unemployment: How will 

African countries be able to cope with the vast increases in their labor 

forces over the coming decades? Will employment opportunities be 

plentiful or will it be a major achievement just   to keep unemployment 

levels from rising?   

 

 

(3) the problem  of poverty alleviation:   What are the   implications 

of higher population growth  rates among the world's poor for their 

chances of overcoming the human misery of absolute poverty?  Will world 

food supply and its distributon be sufficient not only to meet the  

anticipated  population increasein the coming decades  but also to 

improve nutritional levels to the point where all humans can have an 

adequate diet?    

 

(4) improvement- in health and education: Given the anticipated-

population growth  will African countries be able to extend the coverage 

and improve the quality of their health and educational systems so that 

everyone can at least have the chance to secure adequate health care  

and basic education ?  

 

(5) Poverty and the freedom of choice: To what extent are the low levels 

of living an important factor in limiting the freedom of parents to 

choose a desired family size ? Is there a relationship between  

poverty and family size? 

 

	In view of the above questions, it is important to frame the 

population issue not simply in terms of numbers, or densities , or 

rates, or movements but with full  consideration of the qualities of 

human life: prosperity in place of poverty education in place of  

illiteracy full opportunities for the next generations of children in 

place of current limitations. Population trends if favourable, open 

man's options and enlarge his choices. Thus population policy  

is not an end but only a means - a means to better  life. This what the 

concern about population is  about , or ought to be.   

 

II. Africa's Demographic Features 

 

Over the last one century Africa's population has grown at a rapid rate. 

The various estimates of the population size of Africa indicate that 

prior to 1900, the annual growth rate of population was less  

tharl 0.1 per cent; durirlg the period 19001950, it was 1.2 per cent; in 

the period 1950-1970, the growtn rate was estimated at 2.8 per cent; in 

the period 1980-1990, the rate was at)out 3.2 r)er  

cent. These data SllOW that the recent demograr)hic trends in Africa are 

characterized not only by unprecederlted rapid growtla rates t)ut also 

t)y tile associated youthful age cor zositir   

 

	Africa faces a major population explosion in the near future. 

Africa's population which was estimated at 257 million in 1960 had    

increased to 482 million by 1983. ,n 1993 the population of  

the continent was estimated at 682 mill on. The average annual growth 

rate during the decade was 3.2 per- cent - the highest among Third World 

regions. in 1983, the ECA , using hight variant  

assumptions , projected that total African population will be about 1.1 

billion by 2008, taking an annual growth rate of 3.2per cent during the 

25-year period ( 1 983-2008).The associated numbers of urban  

dwellers will be 472 million; children (0-14), 479 million; active 

population (15-64), 546 million; and school age 178 million (primary) 

152 million (secondary).  and  124  million (tertiary). 

 

	Even under the medium variant  of the population projections by 

ECA, a2.8 per   cent annual growth would bring the total population to 

997 million by the year 2008 instead of 1.1 billion based on high] 

variant assumptions. Thus the prospects of a new and better demographic 

setting that will not bring about unsustainable  pressures and  tensions 

but will rather ensure the progress and prosperity of all African 

countries seem rather remote during the next 14 years as drastic 

structural changes in the demographic situation take a long time. 

 

III. Consequences of rapid population growth in Africa. 

 

       The costs of rapid population growth are cumulative: more births 

today make the task of slowing population growth later difficult, as 

today's children become tomorrow's parents. In general, food supplies 

and agricultural producrion must be greatly increased to meet the needs 

of a rapidly growing population, this limits the allocaton of resources 

to other economic and social sectors, Secondly , the rappid increase in 

population means that there will be an increase in the dependency ratio  

This implies that the country concerned will have to allocate increasing 

resources to feed, clothe, house and educate the useful component of the 

population which consumes but dopes not produce goods and services 

Thirdly, a rapidly growing popuiation has serious implications for the 

provision of productive employment Since the rapid)id population growth] 

is normally accompanied  by a proportionalte increase in the supply of 

the labour force, it means that the rate of job creation should match 

the rate of supply of the labour force In Africa the rate of latgour 

force supply has outstripped that of job creation,implying  that the 

rates of urlemployment have been increasing rapidly In other words, the 

number of people seeking employrnent increases more rapicily than the 

number of available jobs This kind of situation. poses a menacing 

problem for society   

 

	When an ever-growing number of workers cannot be absorbed in the 

modern  economic sectors of the African courltries the workers are 

forced either into unproductive service occupations or back into the 

traditional section with its low productivity and low  subs stence wage  

levels This large supply for cheap labour tends to hold back 

techologfical change,   and industrialization is slowed by mass 

poverty.which   in turn reduces the demand for manufactured goods.  The 

end results are low saving rates and low labor skills, both of which 

enhibit the full development and utilization of natural resources in 

some African countries.  In other countries, the growing population 

would outrun the levels at which renewable resources could be 

sustanined, and the resource bases would detoriorate.  Thus, widespread 

poverty, low labour productivity, the growing demand for food and slow 

industrialization  distort and degrade the international trade of 

African countries. 

 

	Rapid population growth rates also have ramifications for 

political and social conflicts among different ethnic, religious, 

linguistic and social groups.  As population growth rapidly, there will 

be increasing demands for governmental services in health, education, 

welfare and other functions cause of or even the major contributing 

factor in violence aggression, the large proportions of young people, 

particularly htose unemployed or have little hope for a satisfactory 

future, might form disruptive and potentially explosive political force. 

 

 

 

	The cost adequacy and nature of health and welfate services might 

be affected by rapid population growth in much the same way as are those 

of educational services.  In the the individual family death and illness 

might be increased by high fertility easy and frequent pregnancies, and 

the necessity of caring for excessive numbers of children.  It should 

also be noted that the physical and mental development of children are 

often retarced in large families because of in adequate nutition and the 

prevelance of diseases associated with povery, and also because the 

childten are provided of sufficient  adult contact. 

 

	Another major consequence of rapid Africa's population growth is 

the phenomenal growth rate of urban population.  Due to an increaese in  

the total population, the Africa's urban population will reach 377 

million and 1,271 million levels for the years 2000 and 2025, 

respectively. Without adequate provision of housing facilities, the 

rapid population growth rate will result in poor and crowded housing in 

the urban slums of the rapidly growing cities, and this could also 

produce further social problems.   

 

 

 

	Rapid urbanization has also caused stresses in many African 

economies. Africa is still very largely rural and agricultural, as some 

75% of all Africans live outside cities and towns. Nevertheless, during 

the past generation, urbanization has increased at an alarming pace. 

More than 42% of all population, compared with only 8% in 1960. In fact, 

there were only two cities in the continent with populations exceeding 

500,000 in 1960. If recent trends should continue, Africa will have 60 

cities with population of more than  1,000,000 by the year 2000 as 

against 19 cities in 1993. It should be noted that in 1950, only Cairo 

had a population of more than 1,000,000 in the entire African continent. 

 

     This rapid urban population growth has been caused by factors such 

as prospects for more jobs, access to  medical treatment, and general 

attractions of urban lives. Many migrants to the cities, however, have 

discovered that their prospects are not significantly improved by 

relocation, and  unemployment and underemployment are rampant  in every 

major city in Africa. Increases in population cause a number  of serious 

problems. With an average annual growth rate in agriculture of about 

2.5 o self-sufficiency in food production becomes a more elusive 

goal.Additionally, high population growth   puts pressures on the soil 

by  decreasing the time it is allowed  to lay fallow; pastures land 

declines and the result is over grazing, which in turn causes  in 

creased friction between farmers and herders.   

 

IV. Inter-relationship between population growth and socio-economic 

development 

 

	The socio-economic  consequences of demographic evolution and 

vise-versa are extremely difficult to measure with accuracy. However, 

some studies have attempted to show the , relationship between 

population growth and socio-economic development . 

 

	The correlation matrix of population and socio-economic 

development for 50 Africancountries during the.last three decades has 

proved that population and development are inseparable and their 

relationship is reciprocal .  The most important findings from these  

studies are : 



	a) Population , agriculture and environment. 

 

	The relationship between the three variables show that the 

situation in Africa is critical. From the 660 million hectares of 

forest, about 3.2 million hectares per year are lost. The demand for 

fire wood is increasing about the same rate of population       

growth (3 5). This degradation of environment has a negative 

repercussion on the agriculture production and among other things on the 

availability of water resources. 

 

	The food deficit generated aggravated the malnutrition situation 

in African countries. The agriculture and economic stagnation impede the 

process of transition towards the lowering of fertility.   

 

	The rapid population growth affected also the satisfaction of 

immediate needs of the people and sustainable development.   

 

 

 

	b) Population and education. 

 

	It is noted that population growth is closely correlated with the 

number  of children per woman and in the countries where the primary 

school enrollment for girls is nigh it is found that the infant 

mortality is lower. The fertility rate is also negatively correlated 

with the number of girls registered in primary school showing that 

education of women is a crucial variable in the explanation of the 

fertility tendency observed in African countries and accordingly 

constitutes and important  factor of the relation between demographic 

growth and development 

 

	c) Population migration and urbanization 

 

	Population growth affects   the increase of urban areas through 

the process of n migration.fertility is higher among population working 

on agriculture than it is in urban population. As a result rural-urban  

migration takes place. This could cause serious shortage of labour force 

in the area of origin and as a consequency lack of food supply while it 

could cause an excess of labour , increased demand for health and 

education services  and could create rapid urbanization and development 

of towns in the areas of destination. 

 

	Therefore - this situation and realities which exist in our 

countries have become causes for the failure of our efforts in 

development.   

 

	d)Population and family planning. 

 

	The correation matrix of fertility trends and contraception shows 

also that proportion of women using contraception are the most 

negatively correlated with fertility and was less degree to the 

proportion of children enrolled in secondary schools, the degree of 

urbanization, growth of GDP per capita and other factors. The African 

countries with low fertility are the countries where the  contraceptive 

prevalence rate the primary school enrollment of girls, the expenditure 

in social sector are very high and the expenditure for defense and 

security very low. therefore increase of general education of the 

population specially for girls and favorable socio-economic situation 

constiute the important elements in the use of contraception and family  

planning and consequently control the fertility and better quality of 

life.   

 

	e) Population and Structural Adjustment Proqrammes.   

 

	African countries who have adopted the structural adjustment are 

those who have experienced lower GNP per capita, rapid demographic 

growth due to high fertility, high proportion of illiterate woman, slow 

decrease of infant mortality, high poverty, low rate of prevalence of 

contraception, rapid degradation of environment etc.. It also appears 

that the adoption of the structural adjustment programme by those 

African countries seem to have no amelioration in their critical 

situation they were experiencing before the adoption of structural 

adjustment programme.   

 

 

 

	Conclusion 

 

	In conclusion, there is no doubt that the population  problem in 

Africa is real and challenging. The impact of the effect of high birth 

and death rates, increasing population size and density,rapid population 

growth, and increasing dependency burden all translate into greater 

demands on the  African governments  in productive activities which in 

turn accentuate the problems of unemployment, underemployment, 

persistent poverty, urban slums, crime and political unrest.   

 

	To the extent that population variables influence development and 

are also influenced by them, the the theme of this analysis is that if 

Africa is to effect changes in the critical growth components of their 

populations (especially fertility) consistent with the recommendations 

of the Kilimanjaro  Programme of Action the Dakar/NGOR Declaration, and 

ultimately effect  a marked reduction in Africa's population growth 

rate, then a viable population  policy for the constituent states should 

be one integrated into their development plans. 

 

	The programme of ..action of ICPD which focused on the control of 

population growth mainly by means of family planning and contraceptives 

should take into consideration the socio-economic development aspect to 

reach objectives.Every country should have the !responsibilities  to 

tackle prevailing population problems according to its development 

policy based on the local cultural,religious , political, ethnic and 

demographc diversity. 




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