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 12th (it came out in 2015), 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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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Demographics of Africa from President Obama's Perspective

Thanks to Debbie Fugate for pointing me to the White House website and the transcript of the speech that President Obama gave a couple of days ago at the University of Cape Town, in South Africa. Here we see recognition that President Obama is aware that the demographic transition has a ways to go in this region, and that it will spell the difference for the future.
Many of the fastest-growing economies in the world are here in Africa, where there is an historic shift taking place from poverty to a growing, nascent middle class. Fewer people are dying of preventable disease. More people have access to health care. More farmers are getting their products to market at fair prices. From micro-finance projects in Kampala, to stock traders in Lagos, to cell phone entrepreneurs in Nairobi, there is an energy here that can't be denied -- Africa rising.
We know this progress, though, rests on a fragile foundation. We know that progress is uneven. Across Africa, the same institutions that should be the backbone of democracy can all too often be infected with the rot of corruption. The same technology that enables record profits sometimes means widening a canyon of inequality. The same interconnection that binds our fates makes all of Africa vulnerable to the undertow of conflict.
So there is no question that Africa is on the move, but it's not moving fast enough for the child still languishing in poverty in forgotten townships. It's not moving fast enough for the protester who is beaten in Harare, or the woman who is raped in Eastern Congo. We've got more work to do, because these Africans must not be left behind.
And that’s where you come in –- the young people of Africa. Just like previous generations, you've got choices to make. You get to decide where the future lies. Think about it -- over 60 percent of Africans are under 35 years old. So demographics means young people are going to be determining the fate of this continent and this country. You’ve got time and numbers on your side, and you’ll be making decisions long after politicians like me have left the scene.
There's much more in here of demographic relevance, from inequality to religion to the status of women, but the key message is that the young people of Africa must decide what to do with their future.


  1. Prof Weeks - I found Pres. Obama's comments very positive. I truly hope he gets more support for the ideas he has put forward. I took a look at the reader's comments on Pres. Obama's ideas in Yahoo. The reader response was running "negative" in an overwhelming way. This negative feedback was basically from sentiments that said "do you really want us to give $7 billion to Africa - we need this money back home!". It's an understandable feeling, I suppose. But most people do not grasp what is at stake if things aren't turned around in Africa.

    I would be very interested in your thoughts from the Ghana perspective. After watching Kenya and E Africa for almost 20 years - my impression is that the biggest poisitve changes in Africa would be the following:
    (1) An effective Green Revolution in farming, similar to what has happened in India and China, (2) Major steps forward on new energy and water programs - possibly through large desalination projects and water transport, (3) Education programs to rural areas through satellite reception and special in-country broadcasts by talented African teachers.
    DrP, Los Angeles

  2. By the way, Prof Weeks. You said ... "So there is no question that Africa is on the move, but it's not moving fast enough for the child still languishing in poverty in forgotten townships".

    Indeed - it's a vital observation. One I take to heart, by the way, because I do make personal trips to the ghettos of East Africa. They are crazy, mixed-up, rough and SUBHUMAN places! My impression is that things can't go on much longer with the "status quo" for these places. Social order will inevitably break down. If my comments seem "negative" at times here - it is because I have experienced those places in Africa firsthand.

    Anyway - this raises an essential point. Do you know where I can find statistics on the distribution of wealth (or income) for African countries? Also, do you know if snyone has actually studied the demographics of ghettos - in Africa or anywhere else. I really don't know if anyone collects data like this - but it is quite essential for modeling the future trends of Africa (and the world).
    thanks!, DrP

    1. The best source for income data would be the World Bank ( and then click on Data. The best source about life in Africa's cities is probably UN-Habitat's State of African Cities 2010 ( Our own work on neighborhoods in Accra can be found online at: