Libmonster ID: U.S.-1459
Author(s) of the publication: Yu. V. ZINKINA
Educational Institution \ Organization: Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Tropical Africa, Rwanda, birth rate, demography, population growth, Sustainable Development Goals

The threat of a population explosion was "well known" in the 1970s, when the Nobel Prize-winning physician Paul Ehrlich wrote his famous "Population Bomb"1. Since then, most countries have successfully completed the demographic transition and have more or less stabilized their population (or at least significantly slowed its growth). Accordingly, programmes aimed at reducing demographic growth have all but disappeared from the international aid agenda for developing countries. The priority and funding of family planning extension programmes in developing countries2 has been sharply reduced.

By now, there is a growing awareness that the curtailment of international aid activities in this area was premature. As the American demographer S. Bernstein famously pointed out, " the race to reduce population growth was essentially declared over before anyone even crossed the finish line."3. Indeed, the demographic statistics of recent years strongly suggest that it is premature to claim that the problem of population growth has been solved, since in a number of countries (especially in Tropical Africa), the population continues to grow at a very rapid pace - faster than the world's population has ever grown at all!

This problem is compounded by the accumulated inertia of population growth: even if the birth rate falls to the level of simple reproduction in the near future (which in itself is almost impossible and governments will have to make very significant efforts to achieve such a result in the coming decades), the population will continue to grow by inertia for a long time-as numerous cohorts of modern children grow up and become a large generation of parents. For example, Tanzania, which had a population of approximately 50 million in 2013, caught up with Russia in terms of the number of children aged 0-4 years - approximately 8.5 million - in the same year4.

The UN Population Office forecast shows that in sub-Saharan Africa, the threat of a population explosion is not only real, but also the main scenario of the future for the coming decades. Such small countries as Niger, Malawi, and Zambia with a population of 13-15 million people will have the same population as modern Russia by the end of the century. Small East African countries (35-40 million people) Kenya and Uganda will reach the population of the Soviet Union -160-170 million people. Tanzania will catch up with Russia in terms of population by 2050, and by the end of the century it will exceed us by more than half. The population of Nigeria will exceed the current population of our country by almost five times!5 Such explosive demographic growth can undoubtedly lead to a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe for these countries and for the world community as a whole.6

This necessitates the return of large-scale population growth reduction programs for Tropical Africa.

However, an analysis of the main priorities of international aid shows that, alas, this problem, despite all its practical acuteness and global significance, remains largely "unfashionable" and irrelevant.-

The study was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, project N 13 - 06 - 00336 - "Analysis of socio-demographic development in Tropical Africa: identification of key risk factors and modifiable control parameters for developing practical recommendations for preventing socio-demographic collapse".

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while remaining absent from the international development assistance agenda.

Over the past 20 years, the main areas of international assistance to developing countries have been defined by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are the eight international development goals that 193 UN member States and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by 2015. They were formally formulated at the Millennium Summit in 2000, where all the world leaders present adopted the UN Millennium Declaration. The MDGs were primarily aimed at accelerating development by improving the social and economic conditions of the world's poorest countries. 7

Official results of the progress of developing countries (including those in Tropical Africa) in achieving each MDG are still being compiled. However, several conclusions can be drawn right now: many countries in Tropical Africa have made significant progress in reducing child mortality (MDG 4 assumed a two-thirds reduction in under-5 mortality by 2015 from 1990 levels). For example, in Tanzania, this figure fell from 167 to 52 deaths per year. In Uganda-from 179 to 66, in Malawi - from 245 to 68, in Senegal - from 141 to 55, and even in one of the most backward countries - Niger - from 327 to 104 in 1990-2013. 8

However, the decline in mortality was not accompanied by a parallel decline in the birth rate; moreover, during the period 2000-2015. the birth rate in many countries of Tropical Africa did not decrease at all, having frozen at a very high level (often more than 5 children per woman). The result was the accumulation of enormous demographic inertia.

Currently, the UN has almost completed work on a new development agenda; 17 new Sustainable Development Goals have been identified. However, even in them, priorities related to demography "shine in their absence." For most developing countries, this is a relatively harmless omission, but for Tropical Africa, another 15 years of inattention to population growth could be a truly global catastrophe.


Is the situation really as disturbing as we're trying to make it out to be? An analysis of macroeconomic statistics would seem to show signs of unmistakable improvement in Tropical Africa:" Since the "lost" 1980s and early 1990s, African economic dynamics have improved significantly, and the continent has begun to catch up. From 1996 to 2010, Africa's GDP grew at an average annual rate of about 5%, and GDP per capita is growing at an average annual rate of 2.5%. As a result, in 2010, per capita income in Africa exceeded the 1995 level by 46%. The catch-up development of African economies has spread widely-with the exception of only a few countries. " 9

Rapid growth is indeed observed in many sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, banking and finance, information and communication technologies, trade, infrastructure and construction, commodity agriculture, etc. 10 These achievements give rise to a noticeable optimism in the forecasts of further development among experts and politicians.

During his visit to Africa in the summer of 2013, Barack Obama said: "We have a huge opportunity to start a new era of African growth. I see Africa as the world's next biggest economic success story. "11 The African Development Bank's annual Africa Economic Survey 2013 is also very optimistic about the prospects for African growth:" Africa's impressive growth over the past 15 years, supported by its resilience during the 2009 global recession and the recent global downturn, supports this optimism"12.

However, it should be borne in mind that, first of all, such figures hide huge differences between two different civilizational regions - North Africa and sub - Saharan Africa (which, in turn, has significant differences between the countries of Southern and Tropical Africa-at least in the field of demography). Secondly, in those countries of Tropical Africa where the economic development of the last 10 - 20 years has indeed been quite successful, it has not been accompanied by a decline in the birth rate.

Among all the countries in Tropical Africa where the birth rate has stopped declining since the mid-1990s, 13 we tested 14 for which there are relatively recent demographic data from Health and Demographic Studies. 14 Only 2 of these 14 countries, Rwanda and Madagascar, resumed a fairly rapid decline in the birth rate in the second half of the 2000s. In 6 countries - Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda - it also resumed at this time, but at a very slow pace (less than 0.5 children per woman over 5 years). In at least 5 countries (Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria), the birth rate remains almost "stationary" at a very high level-more than 5 children per woman. Finally, in Mozambique and Zam-

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The bii birth rate has not just not decreased in recent years - on the contrary, it has increased.

Our data are quite consistent with the study of prominent American demographers J. R. R. Tolkien.Bongaarts and J.Casterline studies have shown that the decline in birth rates in Tropical Africa is now about 4 times slower than in Asia and Latin America in the 1970s, when they were at a similar stage of demographic transition.15

Even in the countries where economic growth was fastest, it did little to accelerate the decline in the birth rate. By contrast, it has grown in Zambia, where economic growth averaged 5% to 6% during the 2000s, and in Mozambique, where GDP per capita has almost doubled since 1995. The birth rate remained constant or even increased in Nigeria during the years (2000s) when oil prices were extremely high. Finally, in some countries, such as Tanzania, the period of relatively stable and rapid economic growth did not begin in the 2000s, but earlier, around the second half of the 1990s, thus almost completely coinciding with the period of stopping the decline in the birth rate, which "froze" at the level of more than 5 children per woman..

So, there is no conclusive evidence that economic advances have led to the supposed acceleration of the birth rate decline in Tropical Africa. The only exception is Rwanda, where the birth rate decreased by 1.5 children per woman between 2005 and 2010, but this is more likely to be attributed to the large - scale family planning program implemented in the country.

Consequently, to expect that further development will inevitably" automatically " trigger a decline in the birth rate and bring it to the level of modern countries is a very dubious basis for building both an international development assistance strategy and a domestic policy of the countries of the region.


Much of the scientific and practical literature on Africa's growth and development prospects focuses much more on identifying and analyzing short - and medium-term challenges than long-term ones, which is understandable, since one of the important goals of such research is to provide a scientific basis for practical recommendations and decisions made. This is also largely true for attempts to predict future development trajectories (most of these forecasts are short-or medium-term in nature, especially in the financial and economic sphere).

Much less attention is paid to long-term problems and threats to development. Their solution is much more difficult to model and calculate; specific effective solutions to such problems are less often proposed, and their relevance seems lower compared to short-term ones that require immediate solutions. One of these long-term problems is the continuing explosive population growth in most of Tropical Africa.

This factor, unfortunately, often receives insufficient attention in studies dealing with both the overall development prospects for Africa and specific areas, even those that are clearly going to be greatly affected by the upcoming doubling of the population in most Tropical African countries in the next 35 to 40 years. All the more remarkable against this background are the few works that pay serious attention to the impact of demographic factors on the short-and long-term development prospects of sub-Saharan Africa.

In their seminal paper, " Challenges to African Growth, "a team of World Bank experts led by B. J. Ndulu (who has a track record as the head of the Central Bank of Tanzania) identified six key" lessons " that they believe are critically important to take into account when planning for development in African countries. Ndulu and his co-authors have shown that sub-Saharan Africa's economic lag behind other developing regions by about two-thirds is due to a lag in demographic transition and continued extremely high population growth rates.

This factor, in their opinion, negatively affected the development of the region in at least two ways: 1) an unusually high level of the demographic burden factor (the number of dependents, especially minors, per employee), the associated tax burden, as well as the burden on the working-age population to care for a very large number of children; 2) rapid growth of the labor force, which is potentially a positive driver of economic development, but can also act as a driver of economic development. and as a negative force if the creation of new jobs does not keep pace with the entry of ever-increasing cohorts of young workers into the labor market16.

The African Economic Survey 2013, prepared by the African Development Bank in collaboration with other international organizations (OECD, UNDP and ECA), highlights that a major obstacle to structural transformation (necessary for Africa, despite the high economic growth rates in recent years), as well as

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High population growth rates are essential for increasing labor productivity. The Survey also highlights another aspect of the current demographic situation: Africa can use the rapid growth of young people entering the labor market to powerfully accelerate development, productivity growth,and economic diversification by generating a demographic dividend. 17

However, two points that are not mentioned in the Review should be emphasized: first, obtaining the demographic dividend is not automatic, since it requires a significant acceleration of the birth rate transition; second, not only the quantity, but also the quality of the labor force is of key importance. Accordingly, to be able to fully realize the demographic dividend, Tropical African countries need to simultaneously take measures to accelerate the decline in the birth rate and work to improve the level and quality of education for children and young people.


With regard to the recognition of the importance of demographic issues in national development plans, we can note the experience of Rwanda, where the State development program "Vision 2020" (launched in 2000 by President Paul Kagame) contains an important statement that high population growth is one of the main causes of depletion of natural resources and subsequent poverty and hunger.

The Government of Rwanda first addressed the issue of reducing population growth and the spread of contraception in 1990, but the implementation of the strategy developed at that time was long interrupted by the genocide of 1994 and its consequences, in particular, by the fact that the health system was almost destroyed. During the post-genocide reconstruction of the country, the problem of reducing the birth rate seemed irrelevant, but already in the 2000s, the population reached pre-genocide levels, and rapid population growth began to appear on the agenda as a significant obstacle to the country's development.18

In 2005, experts from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) presented to the Rwandan Parliament their calculations on the negative effects of rapid population growth on the standard of living of Rwandans, the labor market, urbanization, the development of education and health systems, etc. 19 A study conducted in the same year showed that the birth rate in the country increased from 5.8 children per woman in 2000 to 6.1 in 2005. This prompted the launch of a large-scale state campaign to reduce the birth rate.

In 2007, the President of Rwanda, P. Kagame, stated that Rwanda was far behind in the distribution of contraception, and increasing the coverage of modern family planning practices should be one of the main priorities of the country's development.20 The rapid population growth issue has been highlighted in the Rwandan Strategy for Economic Development and Poverty Reduction 2008-2012, which also aims to increase the use of modern contraceptives among married Rwandan women to 70% by 2012. At the same time, representatives of the Ministry of Finance stated that in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by half, it is necessary to reduce the birth rate to at least 4 children per woman.21

At the same time, in 2007, Rwanda launched a large-scale government program to promote family planning practices using a well-developed prevention and primary health care infrastructure, implemented under the universal health insurance system.

The main element of the program was the free distribution of modern contraceptives (including long-term ones) through all medical institutions in the country. At the same time, a large-scale educational campaign was launched to inform the population about the benefits of birth control and the use of modern family planning practices. Information and training events were held for all health care personnel, as well as secondary school teachers, officials and journalists. Family planning specialists were trained to work with the population, and funds from international development aid organizations were raised: USAID sponsored the purchase of contraceptives, and the United Nations Population Fund provided financial support for the family planning specialist training program22.

Rwanda has achieved a phenomenally rapid increase in contraception use among married women aged 15-49, from 17.4% in 2005 to 51.6% in 2010, with rapid increases in both urban areas (from 31.6% to 53.1%) and rural areas (from 15.2% to 51.4%).23 At the same time, the results of a recent study show that most (77%) of the increase in contraception coverage should be attributed to the implementation of the program, and only 17% of the success was due to changes in various socio-economic characteristics of the population.-

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in particular, the growth of women's education)24. Unmet demand for contraception has halved from 38% to 19%. On the one hand, this indicates an unmistakable increase in the availability of family planning funds; on the other, it shows that Rwanda still has some potential to further reduce the birth rate.

In general, according to recent studies, in just 5 years-from 2005 to 2010 - Rwanda managed to reduce the birth rate at a record rate for Tropical Africa and very high by world standards - by 25% in 5 years, from 6.1 to 4.6 children per woman. At the same time, a very rapid decline in the birth rate occurred in all groups of the population - among urban women (from 4.9 children per woman in 2005 to 3.4 in 2010) and rural women (from 6.3 to 4.8), among women without education (from 6.9 to 5.4), with primary education (from 6.1 to 4.8), with secondary and higher education (from 4.3 to 3.0) 25.

* * *

For all its success, Rwanda's experience is still unique in Tropical Africa. The remaining countries do not yet seem to fully understand the gravity of the demographic pressures (doubling of the population in the next 30 to 40 years) that they will inevitably face and that will make significant adjustments in all areas of socio - economic development. Even to maintain the current standard of living, countries in the region will have to achieve at least a doubling of GDP over the same 30 to 40 years. The rapid growth of youth cohorts also threatens the preservation of socio-political stability. Nevertheless, the recognition of the" demographic challenge " to development is still being traced only in some scientific and practical works, which is important, but completely insufficient. The global community must realize that the achievement of each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in Africa may be threatened by a"population explosion". Accordingly, reducing population growth should be one of the top priorities of international development assistance to this region.

Ehrlich P.R. 1 The Population Bomb. N.Y.: Ballantine, 1968; Ehrlich P.R., Ehrlich A.H. The Population Explosion. N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1990.

Zinkina Yu. V. 2 Family planning programs and their impact on fertility: experience of the developing world and prospects for application in Africa// Population. 2014. N 3. С. 68 - 82. (Zinkina Yu.V. 2014. Programmy planirovaniya semyi i ih vliyanie na rozhdaemost: opyt razvivayushchegosya mira i perspektivy primeneniya v Afrike // Narodonaselenie. N 3) (in Russian)

Bernstein S. 3 The changing discourse on population and development: Toward a new political demography // Studies in Family Planning. 2005. Vol. 36, N 2, p. 127 - 132.

4 World Bank. 2014. World Development Indicators Database -

5 UN Population Division. 2014. United Nations. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Population Division Database. World Population Prospects -

Korotaev A.V., Zinkina Yu. V. 6 How to optimize the birth rate and prevent humanitarian disasters in Tropical Africa // Asia and Africa today. 2013. N 4. Pp. 28-35. (Korotaev A.V., Zinkina Yu. V. 2013. Как optimizirovat rozhdaemost i predotvratit gumanitarnye katastrofy v stranakh Tropicheskoi Afriki // Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 4) (in Russian)

7 For more information, see, for example: Matsenko I. B. Afrika: realizatsiya "Tsel'ev razvitiya millenniya" [Africa: Implementing the Millennium Development Goals]. 2012. N 8. p. 21-26; N 9. P. 17-21; N 10. P. 19-24. (Macenko J. B. Afrika: realitsiya "Tseley razvitiya tysyacheletiya" / / Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 8, 9, 10) (in Russian)

8 In other countries, progress was slightly less than 2/3 of the 1990 level, but still significant. For example, in Kenya, this figure decreased from only 99 to 71 over the same period 1990-2013, in Nigeria-from 213 to 117, in Ghana-from 128 to 78. Data source: World Bank. 2014. World Development Indicators Database -

9 AfDB, OECD, UNDP, ECA. African Economic Outlook 2013. Tunisia: African Development Bank, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 2013. P. 22.

10 Descriptions of individual countries and their main drivers of economic growth are presented in a series of annual African economic surveys prepared by the African Development Bank in collaboration with other international organizations.

Schwarz G., Yellin J. 11 02.07.2013. Obama in Tanzania, sees Africa as next global economic success. CNN -

12 AfDB, OECD, UNDP, ECA... P. 38.

. Zinkina Yu. V. Birth rate in Tropical Africa: the risk of demographic explosion / / Asia and Africa today. 2013. N 9. pp. 42-45. (Zinkina Yu. V. 2013. Rozhdaemost v Tropicheskoy Afrike: risk demograficheskogo vzryva // Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 9) (in Russian)

14 Medico-demographic surveys - nationally and regionally representative household surveys with a sample of 5,000 to 30,000 households.

Bongaarts J., Casterline J. 15 Fertility Transition: Is sub-Saharan Africa Different? // Population and Development Review. 2012. Vol. 38. Supplement, p. 153 - 168.

Ndulu B.J., Chakrahorti L., Lijane L., Ramachandran V., Wolgin J. 16 Challenges of African Growth. Opportunities, Constraints, and Strategic Directions. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2007.

17 AfDB, OECD, UNDP, ECA... P. 75 - 78.

18 Ministry of Health [Rwanda]. National Family Planning Policy and Its Five Year Strategies, 2006 - 2010. Kigali, Rwanda: Ministry of Health, 2006.

Westoff Ch.F. 19 The Recent Fertility Transition in Rwanda // Population and Development Review. 2012. Vol. 38, Supplement, p. 169 - 178.

Kinzer S. 20 After So Many Deaths, Too Many Births // New York Times, 11.02.2007 -

Muhoza D.N., Rutayisire P.C., Umubyeyi A. 21 Measuring the Success of Family Planning Initiatives in Rwanda: A Multivariate Decomposition Analysis. Calverton, Maryland: ICF International, 2013. P. 13.

22 For more information about this program, see: Muhoza D. N., Rutayisire R. S., Umubyeyi A. Op. cit; Westoff Ch. F. Op. cit.

23 Significant progress has also been made in other health-related areas: for example, in the 10 years from 2000 to 2010, Rwanda managed to reduce infant mortality by more than 2 times (from 107.4 per 1000 to 50 per 1000) and child mortality (from 196.2 per 1000 to 76 per 1000).

Muhoza D. N., Rutayisire R. S., Umubyeyi A. 24 Op. cit.

25 ICF International. MEASURE DHS STAT Compiler 2014 -


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