The Economist story seems inspired by a recent paper: "African Demography”, by Jean-Pierre Guengant and John May in the journal Global Journal of Emerging Market Economies. The plot line will be a familiar one to readers of my book: fertility is declining in north and south Africa, but not so much in between, as the map below illustrates.
Most of Africa is catching up too little, too late. The result is that the continent’s overall population will rise sharply, its big cities will grow alarmingly, and though its labour force will also expand (which is potentially good for growth), its coming “youth bulge” will be hard to manage. They conclude that governments must do much more to encourage and improve family planning.
Family planning is not expensive. According to the Guttmacher Institute, an American think-tank, it would cost about $1.5 billion a year to provide modern contraceptives to all African women aged 15-49 who do not get them. The countries where they are used most frequently are also the ones catching up fastest with the rest of the world. Unless the other African countries follow suit, the continent will see its demographic convergence lag behind; it also risks getting stuck, by having too many people with too few chances of escaping poverty.The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been stepping up their work in this area, but some quick international help from USAID and other countries could potentially turn the tide.