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Africa’s population set to double by 2050

Washington, DC, Sept.16, GNA – Better medicines and improved healthcare will see Africa’s population rise from 1.1 billion today to at least 2.4 billion in 2050, according to the 2013 World Population Data Sheet published by the Washington DC-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

“Nearly all of that growth will be in the 51 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the region’s poorest,” says Wendy Baldwin, president and CEO of PRB. “Rapid population growth makes it difficult for economies to create enough jobs to lift large numbers of people out of poverty.”

This means that African governments will be under even greater pressure to provide improved socio-economic opportunities for their burgeoning population and young populations.

“Given its youthful population, future population growth in Africa will depend upon the degree to which the parents of tomorrow use family planning,” says Carl Haub, PRB senior demographer and co-author of the Data Sheet. “The projections that we cite assume that family planning will become more widespread. If not, Africa’s population will grow more rapidly, further constraining efforts to address poverty, create jobs, and protect the environment.”

Today, women in sub-Saharan Africa average 5.2 children, a rate that rises as high as 7.6 in Niger. The 10 countries worldwide with the highest fertility are all in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to high birth rates, the region’s population is also quite young, with 43 per cent of the population below age 15.

The PRB warned, however, that its projection “should be treated very cautiously, because it assumes that birth rates will decline smoothly in all African countries in much the same way as birth rates declined in other regions”.

It added : “And that assumption, in turn, assumes that the effective use of family planning will spread in Africa. In most countries, declines in birth rates have been very slow or even non-existent. And even with declining birth rates, sub-Saharan Africa’s population will continue to grow at a fairly rapid pace after 2050, as it will still be quite youthful.”

Ghana’s population is projected to rise from 26 million in 2013 to 46 million in 2050. Nigeria’s will rise from 174 million to 440 million ; Kenya’ from 44 million to 97 million, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s from 71 million to 182 million ; Somalia’s from 10 million to 27 million.

But this phenomenal growth in the population of African countries should not be seen in a negative light, according to Julia Schunemann, Director of the Africa Future’s Project at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.

She says : “African countries also have the world’s fastest economic growth rates. The question is, can those economies grow fast enough to offset the demands of population growth ? In general, I don’t think we should be too pessimistic.”

This year’s Data Sheet provides detailed information on 20 population, health, and environment indicators for more than 200 countries, and has a special focus on wealth and income inequality.

Developing countries tend to have wide income gaps between rich and poor that are associated with dramatic differences in fertility and health. For example, in Uganda, women from the poorest fifth of families have twice as many children as those from the wealthiest fifth. And children from the poorest families are much more likely to die before turning five than their counterparts in the wealthiest families. The PRB’s 2013 World Population Data Sheet showed the stark contrasts between rich and poor countries, illustrated by comparing Niger and the Netherlands. “Even though the two countries have almost the same population size today, Niger is projected to nearly quadruple its population from about 17 million today to 66 million in 2050. “The Netherlands’ population will likely grow very slowly from 17 million to 18 million over that same time,” the Data Sheet noted.

“At the root of this ‘demographic divide’ are differences in the average number of births per woman and the share of the population in their childbearing years. Niger’s total fertility rate of 7.6 lifetime births per woman is more than four times the Netherlands’ rate of 1.7 per woman. One-half of Niger’s population is younger than age 15, compared with 17 per cent of the Netherlands’ population,” the PRB said.