Africa is growing – and poverty is increasing, Africa, dw

Africa’s population is growing rapidly and is expected to double by 2050. A recent study by the Gates Foundation advises more birth control. The change of heart has already begun in Ethiopia.

1.3 billion people live on the African continent. There will be twice as many in 32 years, and if that means the growth of the economy cannot keep up with that of the population, poverty will increase. The foundation of Microsoft founder Bill Gates took this trend as an opportunity to publish a new study. The forecasts in the current report "Goalkeepers 2018" are rather bleak: in 2050, around 40 percent of the world’s extremely poor population will live in only two countries: Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Around 190 million people currently live in Nigeria. Each woman gives birth to an average of five children there. And this has consequences:"It looks pretty bad in Nigeria now", Farouk Jega, director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Nigeria office, said in an DW interview. "Increasing poverty is exacerbating the security situation, causing unrest and crime. The health minister is promoting modern contraceptives. But only ten percent of women use it". Poor women and families in particular often had no access to condoms and other means.

Traditional image of women

In large parts of Nigeria – as in many African countries – a traditional understanding of roles dominates. To change that, the government is working with civil society, religious leaders, and traditional leaders, says Jega. With success: The residents are already discussing the disadvantages of child marriage and the widespread stereotype that many children are a guarantee of retirement benefits. Jega: "It is a long process to change people’s awareness and behavior."

A health official measures the arm circumference of a child in a refugee camp in Nigeria

To offer more education for women and innovative sources of income for them – that is the best Way to turn the problem into opportunities, Jega believes. But so far the birth rate has not decreased. In the fight against overpopulation, the Gates couple’s foundation suggests investing more in the health and education of young people. "If every woman in Sub-Saharan Africa were able to have the number of children she really wanted, population growth would be reduced by 30 percent", she writes.

Men also asked

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ongoing wars are making development work more difficult, says Frederick Okwayo, a member of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Johannesburg. "Logistical supply is difficult due to the poor infrastructure. But we try to go to the refugee camps and help people there, including family counseling", says Okwayo. It is important for all countries: the men have to be involved in order to show them the advantages of smaller families. Governments are also required to lead reforms and support aid organizations.

Africans currently make up around one sixth of the world’s population

Nigeria’s population will increase to 400 million by 2050, and the Congo will have two and a half times as many people as it does now, says Alisa Kaps, a member of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. Given these rates, food, healthcare, and work are becoming increasingly difficult: "The economic growth is eaten up by the high growth of the population", says Kaps in a DW interview. "Almost 20 million people in Africa grow into working age each year, but only three million formal jobs are available. Where should the money come from??"

Ideological opposites

There are still African presidents who are campaigning for an increase in births, says Kaps. "I find that questionable." One of them is John Magufuli in Tanzania. At the beginning of September, he asked women to leave out contraceptives because the country needed more people. More than half of the 53 million Tanzanians live below the poverty line of $ 2 a day. Magufuli was also undeterred by criticism from the opposition and banned an American aid organization from promoting family planning in the media.

According to the Gates study, Africans are having more children than they want – also due to a lack of access to contraceptives

Other countries stand in stark contrast to Magufuli’s policies: Rwanda improved the once desolate health system in the years after the genocide – including family planning. The small country has increased contraceptive use by women by 60 percent and, like Botswana, is one of the success stories when it comes to slowing population growth.

Ethiopia in particular is changing "From Hunger Land to Bearer of Hope" – This is the title of a study published by the Berlin Institute on Friday (September 21, 2018). The number of children per woman has dropped from seven to four and a half because the government has hooked in the three core areas of health, education and job creation, said Alisa Kaps. "This is the fastest decline in the birth rate in sub-Saharan Africa." More than 30,000 women have been trained as health workers, and each community offers basic health care. This not only affects population growth. According to Kaps, life expectancy has increased by six years to around 66 years.

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  • date 09/21/2018
  • Writer / Author Martina Schwikowski
  • TagsAfrica, Population Growth, Birth Control, Family Planning, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
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