Africa: Failure is not an Option
There is no doubt: Africa will dominate global population dynamics in the 21st century. While public attention is still focused on Asia as a fast-growing and prospering market with currently 4.5 billion inhabitants, today’s one billion sub-Saharan Africans have significantly outpaced Asia in terms of population growth (2.6% vs. 1.1% in 2016, respectively).
The main reason for this ongoing population growth in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is a sharp decline in infant and child mortality while birth rates have been high for years (the fertility rate per woman was 5.1 in 2013 compared to 6.7 in 1970), while infant mortality declined rapidly from 138 deaths per thousand births in 1970 to 67 in 2013. Today, one billion people or 16% of the world population live in SSA. By 2050, they will double and in 2100, 3.9 billion people or 39% of the world‘s population could live in the region. This is the official forecast according to the Medium variant of the 2015 United Nations Population Projections.
A key issue today is the formulation of policies that would help Africa to replicate the conditions that have enabled East Asian countries to prosper and capture a "demographic dividend" (DD) during the period covering the early 1960s to the 1990s. The DD is defined as an accelerated economic growth triggered by the decline in a country's birth and death rates and the relative increase in working-age adults. However, to open this demographic window of opportunity, public policies will need to manage a rapid and significant decline in fertility in order to reduce the number of young dependents.
Dr. Hans Groth ist Präsident des World Demographic & Ageing Forum (WDA Forum), St. Gallen/Schweiz.