This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Africa on the Rise

This week's Economist has a special section devoted to Africa (meaning sub-Saharan Africa). There are many positive signs in the region--improving economies, increasing political stability, and progress along the demographic transition. with death and birth rates generally declining.
And Africa must make the most of two transitions it is now going through. The move from the countryside to cities offers the chance of a one-off boost to productivity both on the farm and in the slums. If African states bungle this, they will create a dangerous unemployed urban class. At the same time, though Africa’s population is still growing rapidly—it will double to 2 billion by 2050—families there are becoming smaller. This promises a “demographic dividend”, as the number of workers relative to children and the elderly increases. The continent must make use of this bulge of labour, and the savings it produces, for development. If they squander it, Africans will grow old before they grow rich.
This deliberate comparison with Asia may be a little exaggerated, however, unless much more effort can go into lowering the birth rate. Yes, fertility is declining throughout Africa, but generally not at the rapid pace necessary to create the kind of genuine demographic dividend experienced by East Asia. At the moment there is a huge bulge of youth, but not yet a big enough dent in the youngest ages to produce the "dividend." Just as a lot of work remains to bolster economic productivity and political stability, a lot of work remains to bring to Africa both the longer lives and smaller families that are keys to being "rich."

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