15 April 2012

Africa Is Not Like Most of the Rest of the World

SubSaharan Africa is different from the rest of the world. Its countries tend to be poorer, more violent, with more disease, less educated and less literate, and much more prolific in terms of birth rates and population growth.
NYT Lagos, Nigeria

Last October, the United Nations announced the global population had breached seven billion and would expand rapidly for decades, taxing natural resources if countries cannot better manage the growth.

Nearly all of the increase is in sub-Saharan Africa, where the population rise far outstrips economic expansion. Of the roughly 20 countries where women average more than five children, almost all are in the region.
Elsewhere in the developing world, in Asia and Latin America, fertility rates have fallen sharply in recent generations and now resemble those in the United States — just above two children per woman. That transformation was driven in each country by a mix of educational and employment opportunities for women, access to contraception, urbanization and an evolving middle class. _NYT
“The pace of growth in Africa is unlike anything else ever in history and a critical problem,” said Joel E. Cohen, a professor of population at Rockefeller University in New York City. “What is effective in the context of these countries may not be what worked in Latin America or Kerala or Bangladesh.” _NYT
Nigeria, like many sub-Saharan African countries, has experienced a slight decline in average fertility rates, to about 5.5 last year from 6.8 in 1975. But this level of fertility, combined with an extremely young population, still puts such countries on a steep and disastrous growth curve. Half of Nigerian women are under 19, just entering their peak childbearing years...

Statistics are stunning. Sub-Saharan Africa, which now accounts for 12 percent of the world’s population, will account for more than a third by 2100, by many projections. _NYT
...contraceptive use is rising only a fraction of a percent annually — in many sub-Saharan African nations, it is under 20 percent — and, in surveys, even well-educated women in the region often want four to six children.

“At this pace it will take 100-plus years to arrive at a point where fertility is controlled,” Dr. Guengant said. _NYT
That evening at the clinic, Bola Agboola, 30, gave birth to her second child. After nurses swaddled the boy, dispensed with the placenta and declared Ms. Agboola well, they whooped, praising God.

Then, as Ms. Agboola’s husband entered, some started another chant: “Now start another one. Start another one.” _NYT
Across the developed world from Japan to South Korea to Spain to Italy, birthrates have plummeted. Instead of 6 children per woman, in many of the most advanced nations of the world, average birthrates have fallen perilously close to only 1 child per woman.

In such countries, it is easy to understand Robert Zubrin's warning against the lefty-green zealots of the overpopulation brigade. Most of the technological and scientific advances that propel us into the future are brought about by persons at the upper end of the IQ curve -- somewhere above 120 in general. The most advanced science is usually pushed forward by persons with IQ's near or above 130.
What Happened to Africa?

It is easy to think that either overpopulation or underpopulation is the greatest danger to humanity. But the truth is more complex and nuanced.

Not all populations of humans achieve the same results, in terms of the societies that they build, and the future ambitions which they are capable of achieving.

In most populations of the Earth, the educating of women, and the achievement of good public health and the meeting of basic needs, is enough to bring birthrates close to equilibrium. But for various reasons, some populations of the planet may resist achieving such a balance.

Some of the maps above contain enough information to tell you what is being compared. For others, you may need to guess between "national GDP", proportion of persons living on less than $1 a day, etc. But by simply skimming over the maps, one can easily see that SubSaharan Africa is not like most of the rest of the world.

If the rest of the world does not wish to become like subSaharan Africa, it may need to devote some thought to the problem. Compassion and basic humanity are generally the best guidelines for such thinking.

h/t NBF

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Blogger kurt9 said...

Its worth considering that black regions such as Caribbean, Brazil, and even Southern Africa have low birthrates now. This suggests the rest of Africa will follow suit.

Sunday, 15 April, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...


Yes, thanks. I believe the estimate is that sometime within 100 years, Africa may possibly turn the population corner.

By that time, most of Europe and East Asia will have a median age close to 65, and sub-Saharan Africans will constitute between 50% and 60% of the world's population, but technically, what you say will be true.

Sunday, 15 April, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Another important statistic to keep in mind when thinking about birth rates, fertility rates, etc. is the median age:


A nation with a relatively low birth rate and a high median age -- such as Japan, Russia, Italy, etc. is in a much different boat than a nation with a fairly low birth rate and a fairly low median age, such as Jamaica or South Africa.

The young woman (young nation) can always change her mind and have a lot of very fertile children -- thus reversing the temporary trend. An old woman (old nation) does not have that luxury. In the old nation's case, the trend becomes permanent, and perhaps terminal in the long run.

Sunday, 15 April, 2012  
Blogger kurt9 said...

Fear of a black planet, eh?

Sunday, 15 April, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Greg Cochran mentions in his piece that a significant decline in fertility is occurring among the populations that are responsible for most advances in science and technology.

That is something that one might not notice until long after it is too late to reverse the trend. In other words, one needs to pay attention.

Sunday, 15 April, 2012  

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