November 7, 2016-Population Institute Canada is encouraged by a recent article by Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations Population Division, in which he calls for population stabilization in Africa, by far the world’s fastest-growing region.
We agree with his assessment that to ignore this objective will seriously compromise efforts to achieve the United Nations’ universally adopted sustainable development goals (SDGs), including ending poverty, ensuring greater peace and protecting the planet.
Chamie notes that under each of five assumptions of fertility rates, the world population will continue to grow, at least for a few decades. However, under the “low fertility” scenario, the world population would be 7.3 billion by 2100 (less than the current population), whereas if current rates were to remain constant, the global population would triple and reach 26 billion by the end of the century.
Importantly, with fertility rates in many African countries still high—20 African countries have rates in excess of five children per woman—many African youth will struggle to find work. As a result unemployment is certain to intensify efforts to migrate elsewhere on the continent and beyond, notably to Europe, leading in each case to social and political instability.
During the first 10 months of 2016, about 330,000 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea, and more than 3,800 died attempting to cross the Mediterranean, a steady increase over the past five years.
Chamie notes that that the number of young Africans aged 15 to 24 years is expected to nearly double to 452 million by 2050. In that same time period, the number of European youth is expected to decrease by 12 percent. “If only a few percent of young Africans are attracted to European labor demands,” he writes, “the resulting unauthorized and risky migratory outflows would be many times greater than recent numbers.”
Three Critical Ingredients
To accelerate Africa’s transition to sustainable fertility level, Chamie points to three critical ingredients, all of which PIC strongly endorses:
- Primary and secondary education for all children, most critically and especially girls: without a basic education, young Africans are severely disadvantaged for competing in the world economy.
- Availability of vocational training, meaningful employment and career development opportunities for young Africans: unemployment, underemployment and low wages contribute to poverty, social unrest and violence, all of which contribute to the out-migration of African youth in search of jobs and security. “Governments,” Chamie writes, “must intensify efforts to provide training, employment, living wages and decent work conditions so that contributing to one’s country becomes a viable option for Africa’s youth.”
- Lowering high fertility rates and ensuring reproductive health services are widely available: women and men need information and means to decide on the number and spacing of children. The costs for providing reproductive health services are minor compared to the considerable benefits for families and society.
PIC has long-campaigned for smaller, environmentally sustainable populations through universal access to voluntary family planning. As high rates of population growth, notably among sub-Saharan African countries, outpace efforts to educate, employ, house and achieve fundamental development goals, those development setbacks will in turn feed illegal migration, smuggling and human trafficking.
Contact: Madeline Weld, PhD President, Population Institute Canada