Africa Rising – ‘jaw-dropping’ population changes on the horizon

The Lancet is the world’s oldest and most referenced peer-reviewed medical journal. Rivalling the New England Journal of Medicine in global influence, it was founded in England in 1823. The Lancet has rock-solid credibility, despite the rare occasion when a paper is retracted (notably, a 2020 Big Pharma-friendly screed against hydroxychloroquine).

Four years ago The Lancet, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, published a ground-breaking study, “Fertility, mortality, migration, and population scenarios for 195 countries and territories from 2017 to 2100: a forecasting analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study” that projected a scary global population scenario. Even staid and studious scholars described their findings as “jaw-dropping.”

The study’s standout projection: “[T]he global population was projected to peak in 2064 at 9·73 billion (8·84–10·9) people and decline to 8·79 billion (6·83–11·8) in 2100.” A 10 percent global population decline in 36 years is, to say the least, a disquieting proposition.

The 2020 study caused the dam to burst: demography emerged from the shadows of scientific inquiry into the mainstream, front and centre in world media. Since then, a multitude of scientists, scholars, bureaucrats and pundits have weighed in. Interest in declining fertility, ageing populations and labour shortages has exploded.

The Lancet strikes again

Fast forward to 2024: The Lancet published “Global fertility in 204 countries and territories, 1950-2021, with forecasts to 2100: a comprehensive demographic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021.”

Future fertility rates were projected to continue to decline worldwide, reaching a global TFR of 1·83 (1·59–2·08) in 2050 and 1·59 (1·25–1·96) in 2100 under the reference scenario. The number of countries and territories with fertility rates remaining above replacement was forecast to be 49 (24·0%) in 2050 and only six (2·9%) in 2100.

Since the 2020 findings, even more data means there is no dispute: we’re in the early stages of a major population contraction. Over time this will become a preeminent global concern. But take heart, nervous Nellies and gloom-and-doomers. We could save the planet at the expense of saving humanity and satisfy even the most misanthropic malcontent. What good are people anyway?

Maybe we’ll get to the point where ageing societies, faltering retirement schemes and chronic labour shortages become sufficiently problematic that even the Fourth Estate catches on. Could that lead governments to reconfigure priorities? I hope so.

Is such a scenario possible? Look no further than the recent New Scientist headline: “Why falling birth rates will be a bigger problem than overpopulation”.

If it is necessary to pay people to reproduce, Mother Nature is telling us that we have a problem. No creature breeds well in captivity, especially that of the produce-and-consume treadmill. Such servitude is against nature.

Perhaps tone-deaf governments will finally fund family relief if it is promoted as national defence. When there is no longer enough human cannon fodder to feed the world’s war machines, the political class might change their tune. Societies could shift to pronatalist priorities, even for the wrong reasons.



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Africa rising?

Here’s yet another “jaw dropping” revelation:

The proportion of livebirths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa was forecast to increase to more than half of the world's livebirths in 2100, to 41·3% (39·6–43·1) in 2050 and 54·3% (47·1–59·5) in 2100.

After 2011, sub-Saharan Africa contributed the largest share of livebirths, up to approximately 30% by 2021 (up from 8% in 1950).

Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s only region with an above-replacement total fertility rate (TFR), currently estimated from 4.3 to 4.6. They’ve gone from 8 percent of global births in 1950 to 30 percent in 2021, headed to 54 percent by century’s end. While the region’s TFR is falling fast, any sub-Saharan population contraction is at least a century out.

Already teeming with people, Africa will become more crowded. Brimming with natural resources, the region has long been considered an economic basket case. There is much money in sub-Saharan Africa, but prosperity is the province of the few (elites).

The middle class is miniscule, severely limiting opportunity for advancement. Many will head for the West. There is already a brain drain of skilled professionals. The region’s history leaves me sceptical about prospects for progress.

However, with shrinking labour forces elsewhere, Africa’s fecundity means an expanding youth cohort. Thus, Africa has the supply to meet the demand for workers yet lacks the industry to provide living wage jobs.

Then there is the “Scramble for Africa”, which has never really ceased, but continues with different players. The Russians recently supplanted French influence in the Sahel. China runs infrastructure projects throughout the continent. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund project American clout.

Some of Africa’s challenges are outlined by Mercator’s own Mathew Otieno. Michael Cook’s piece “Africa, Continent of the Future” is thought-provoking as well.

All this speaks volumes. Folks are catching on. Population consciousness, at last, has come of age.

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Louis T. March has a background in government, business, and philanthropy. A former talk show host, author, and public speaker, he is a dedicated student of history and genealogy. Louis lives with his family in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Image: Pexels


Showing 8 reactions

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  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2024-04-05 01:45:52 +1100
    Yes, today the middle classes face serious financial difficulties, when they want to raise children from only one middle class income. There are of course exceptions, eg if you can live in a rural area. Problem is, there are not many jobs, so most families live in some agglomerations.

    What is the cause? Vat and other direct and indirect taxes and mandatory social security contributions are, all together, much higher than in the sixties.
  • mrscracker
    Mr. Bunyan, I’d agree it’s a good thing to act prudently & responsibly for oneself & one’s family, but I would take that info from the media with a large grain of salt. I’m widowed & raised 8 children mostly by myself.
    Our standard of living in the US is something we take for granted. What seems lower income here is considered great prosperity elsewhere. And children are only expensive if you want them to be.
    It’s more the middle class that are caught in rising healthcare costs. Medicaid pays for prenatal care & delivery & isn’t terribly hard to qualify for if one’s expecting a child. At least in our state.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2024-04-03 08:36:08 +1100
    mrscracker, in the 1960s it was possible to raise a family on a single income. Now, it’s basically impossible.

    People who can’t even take care of themselves can’t take care of children. And most people aren’t going to have children, then give them up for adoption simply to keep the economy and population growing.

    Medical expenses during pregnancy are also very expensive.
  • mrscracker
    “In today’s society, having children almost guarantees being thrown into permanent abject poverty.”
    I write this as someone blessed with 24 descendants & not in “permanent abject poverty.”
  • mrscracker
    God bless Africa!
  • David Page
    commented 2024-04-03 00:18:22 +1100
    As prosperity increases in Africa the fertility rate will collapsem as has happened everywhere else. There is no mgic religious formula to prevent that.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2024-04-02 14:25:04 +1100
    In today’s society, having children almost guarantees being thrown into permanent abject poverty.

    And with all the difficulties of simply surviving in the modern world, why would anyone want to make things harder?

    Reasonable people won’t have children until they’re financially stable. And if that means they never have children, so be it. No one is obligated to generate future slaves for capitalism. And almost no one can afford to outsource the functions of parenting like Elon Musk has.

    If you want to understand the “problem,” you should try listening to people instead of making unwarranted assumptions about their lives.
  • Louis T. March
    published this page in The Latest 2024-04-02 13:51:18 +1100