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, June 22, 2015

Is Nigeria's Population Less Than We Think?

The Economist this week has a special report on Nigeria, and one of the components of the report is an assessment of Nigeria's population. Building on data from the 2006 census, the UN estimates the 2015 population of Nigeria to be 183 million and projects it to increase to a whopping 440 million by 2050, at which point it would surpass the US and would be the 3rd most populous country in the world. The Population Reference Bureau has a similar current population estimate, but a lower projection, based on the expectation (or at least the hope!) that the birth rate will fall faster than envisioned by UN demographers. The problem, as the Economist notes, and as I discuss in Chapter 3 of my text, is that census taking in Nigeria has always been tricky business. Indeed, funny business surrounding the 1960 census helped lead to the Biafran War that tore Nigeria apart for several years in the late 1960s. So, was the most recent census in 2006 also suspect?
Even allowing for all these swings and roundabouts, some researchers, using sophisticated satellite imagery and geographical information systems, reckon that the 2006 census considerably overstated Nigeria’s urban population, mainly in the north but also in some southern cities. That means Nigeria’s current population may be closer to 160m than 180m. The forecasts suggesting that Nigeria’s population will overtake America’s within a few decades are probably also wrong because they are based on high fertility rates observed in the past, whereas newer data suggest those rates are falling fast, especially in the south.
The Economist does not cite its sources for "some researchers," but I'm guessing that the information comes from AfricaCheck:
Based on the Africapolis urban study, it appears to be more likely than not that Nigeria’s population today is lower than commonly cited. And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), for one, has taken this into account in its estimates. “The OECD has adjusted Nigeria’s population figures on the basis of the much reduced urban populations estimated by the Africapolis team,” Dr Potts [Dr Deborah Potts, a reader in human geography at Kings College London] said. “Their calculations put Nigeria’s population at 110.1 million in 2000, compared to a UN estimate for that year of 123.7 million.” In a report, the organisation estimated that Nigeria’s population in 2006 was just over 134 million; below the 140 million reported in the census.
Interestingly enough, the Economist laments this lower number since it suggests a smaller consumer market than people in business might otherwise be counting on. I think, however, that most of us are likely to agree that given the poverty and corruption in Nigeria--despite its vast natural resources--fewer people now and in the future is better than more. 

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