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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Monday, July 29, 2013

Africa Rising

Last month I commented on the new population projections recently released by the UN Population Division. They suggested more growth in population than had the previous set of projections, and that has gotten a lot of media attention, including a genuinely excellent blog post by Max Fisher of the Washington Post (and thanks to Abu Daoud for pointing me to this). Fisher was as struck as I was by the fact that the major shift is in the growth in Africa, and he has put together nine killer graphs to illustrate how Africa is projected to compare to the rest of the world over the coming decades. You will have to go to his blog to see the charts, but here are a few of his comments:
If these numbers turn out to be right – they’re just projections and could change significantly under unforeseen circumstances – the world of 2100 will look very different than the world of today, with implications for everyone. It will be a place where today’s dominant, developed economies are increasingly focused on supporting the elderly, where the least developed countries are transformed by population booms and where Africa, for better or worse, is more important than ever.
Nigeria, currently Africa’s most populous country, is poised for one of the world’s most rapid population booms ever. In just 100 years, maybe two or three generations, the population is expected to increase by a mind-boggling factor of eight. The country is already troubled by corruption, poverty and religious conflict. It’s difficult to imagine how a government that can barely serve its population right now will respond when the demand on resources, social services, schools and roads increases by a factor of eight. Still, if they pull it off – the country’s vast oil reserves could certainly help – the rapidly growing workforce could theoretically deliver an African miracle akin to, say, China’s.
Right now, many African countries aren’t particularly adept at either governance or resource management. If they don’t improve, exploding population growth could only worsen resource competition – and we’re talking here about basics like food, water and electricity – which in turn makes political instability and conflict more likely. The fact that there will be a “youth bulge” of young people makes that instability and conflict more likely.
With any luck, the spread of this kind of information will help to create more attention on the world stage for what is happening in Africa, so that the global community can respond in a way that will be beneficial to Africans and the rest of the world--beyond the current pattern of China looking to exploit the continent's resources...


  1. Thanks for the link to the article. The charts are quite helpful.

    I will say this - with due respect to Max Fisher. Those trends in Africa are completely unsustainable. Africa will never get to 2100 with its current structures for politics and governance, and the population explosions in many countries. Or at least, I should say that the land and the continent will continue to exist, but not the mass of people inside Africa's borders. A major breakdown in social structures is inevitable in Africa - because solutions that would solve critical problems with the infrastructure simply don't exist.

    What I expect to see is substantial loss of life in Africa, and possibly in places on the Indian subcontinent as well. We will not have to wait until 2100. We are talking about events that dwarf anything that has been previously seen ... such as droughts, epidemics and genocides. It is simply not possible to sustain high birth rates - without the mortality rates catching up. I do not anticipate that Africa will reach a "happy equilibium"

    DrP, Los Angeles

    1. Yes, I agree that trends are potentially ruinous for Africa, which is why it is so important to get the word out about this, so that policy initiatives can be implemented. Most Americans are blissfully unaware of what is happening in this part of the world.