Libmonster ID: U.S.-1457
Author(s) of the publication: Yu. V. ZINKINA
Educational Institution \ Organization: Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Tropical Africa, Malawi, birth rate, demography

The birth rate in most of the countries of Tropical Africa has practically not decreased in the last 15-20 years, "frozen" at an extremely high level (more than 5 children per woman). The UN experts had to revise their forecasts of a decade ago for very many countries in Tropical Africa in the direction of increasing the projected values of their population to such values that indicate very real risks of large-scale social and humanitarian catastrophes in these countries. 1

The forecast is particularly impressive for Malawi, a small country in south-eastern Africa (with an area of about 100 thousand km2-smaller than the Vologda Oblast), whose population, according to the "average" version of the UN forecast, should approach 100 million people by the end of the century. In this light, the question is very relevant: what kind of dynamics is predicted for Malawi and can it be influenced in one way or another?


Currently, there is an updated series of forecasts from the United Nations Population Division, which presents "high", "medium" and " low " forecast scenarios for the population dynamics of Tropical Africa until 2100. The UN focuses on predicting the demographic future of countries through predictive dynamics of a set of demographic indicators. Unfortunately, the analysis of scenarios for the demographic future of Tropical Africa is not given enough attention in the scientific community.

The population increase that the UN" average " forecast scenario suggests should be expected in Malawi up to 2100 relative to the current level is shown in fig. 1. It is important to emphasize that the" average " UN forecast is not an inertial one. It assumes that the birth rate in Malawi will continue to decline and, moreover, that the rate of decline will accelerate compared to what has been observed in recent years.

However, the forecasts developed by the UN Population Division, despite a number of their undoubted advantages (for the region of Tropical Africa, they are, in fact, without alternatives), also have a number of serious limitations due to the methodology of their calculation, in terms of applicability for assessing the potential impact of demographic factors on the prospects for socio-economic development of African countries.

The most significant limitation is that for any country, including Malawi, the-

Figure 1. Projected population dynamics of Malawi according to the" average " forecast of the United Nations Population Division (million people).

Source: UN Population Division. 2012. United Nations. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Population Division Database. World Population Prospects -

The study was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (project N 13 - 06 - 00336).

page 28

a universal set of scenarios is read that does not take into account the specific demographic history of a particular country (for example, a prolonged period of "freezing" of the birth rate at a high level or the introduction of an effective state family planning program).

Moreover, the "medium" scenario, as well as its comparison with the "high" and "low" variants, do not provide answers to key practical questions related to decision-making both in the field of demography and in the field of the influence of demographic factors on various spheres of socio-economic development.

Indeed, for a correct assessment of the potential impact of demographic factors on various areas of development in African countries in the short, medium and long term, forecasting the dynamics of the number of individual age groups, and not just the population as a whole, is also of great importance. For example, information about how much the number of school - age children will grow in the next 10 to 15 years (and this growth is largely inevitable, since most of the representatives of this group have already been born) is key to understanding how many new places in the school system the state will need to create annually in order to preserve the quality of at least the current level of primary and secondary education coverage (not to mention their increase).

It is extremely important to have a fairly accurate forecast of the number of young people, the working-age population, as well as the ratio of the working-age and non-working-age population (total number of dependents per person of working age and, which is especially relevant for the age structure of African countries, the number of young dependents per person of working age), etc.

However, the UN forecast scenarios, although they provide estimates of the number of five-year age and gender groups, do not provide answers to these questions due to the above-mentioned features of the calculation methodology.


Taking into account the above-mentioned methodological limitations of the applicability of UN forecasts, we applied a different method - scenario forecasting of the population size. For Malawi, we calculated two main scenarios::

a) inertial, which makes it possible to predict the size and age structure of the population if the decline in the birth rate continues at the same current rate, without accelerating or slowing down. Two scenarios were calculated : a decrease in the birth rate (and its subsequent stabilization at this level) to the level of population reproduction - 2.1 children per woman or slightly below this level - up to 1.8 children per woman.

b) optimistic, assuming an immediate acceleration of the birth rate decline to the fastest rate of passing the birth rate transition* in the developing world (in Iran in the 80s-90s of the XX century, the birth rate decreased from the level comparable to many countries in Tropical Africa at present - by about 4 children per woman in 20 years). This scenario may seem unrealistic, but the experience of Rwanda in recent years shows that a similar acceleration in the rate of decline in the birth rate in Tropical Africa is quite possible and achievable.

Let us remind you that scenario demographic forecasts are very different in their essence from probabilistic forecasts.

The purpose of calculating population projections for Tropical Africa, for example, based on an optimistic scenario, is not to assess how likely it is in Malawi (this would require assessing how likely it is that certain effective measures are taken by specific individuals in the country's leadership structure, and taking into account the enormous number of possible external impacts, which is hardly achievable). But the key is to understand what kind of increase in the population as a whole and individual age groups, in particular, is inevitable even if the birth rate transition accelerates as much as possible due to the demographic inertia accumulated in recent years.


Indeed, in many African countries, the current generation of children (who will become parents themselves in 20 to 30 years) is 2-3 times larger than the generation of their parents.

The analysis of the forecast calculations of the size and age structure of the population of Malawi under the two scenarios mentioned above allows us to draw a number of important conclusions regarding the "cost" of various demographic future options for various aspects of the country's social, economic, and political development in the medium term. The most important role will be played by such factors as changes in population density (including in the aspect of regional settlement), anthropogenic pressure on the environment, drinking water supply and food security, rural-urban migration and urbanization, the need to build housing and infrastructure, the dynamics of public spending on health and education, economic growth. creating new jobs, etc.

Comparing the inertial scenario with the optimistic one also allows us to quantify the extent to which demographic risks can be mitigated for social workers.-

* From English-Fertility transition. In Western science, this term is very widely known, demographers began to use it actively not so long ago, but, nevertheless, it is quite common and correct. In our literature, it is referred to as "the second phase of the demographic transition, during which there is a decrease in the birth rate and the transition from extended reproduction to simple" (author's note).

page 29

Figure 2. Projected population dynamics in Malawi up to 2100 under various scenarios.

Source: author's calculations.

socio-economic development and socio-political stability. However, they can only be mitigated if large-scale, effective measures are implemented in the very near future to accelerate the decline in the birth rate, and this task is prioritized at the level of national government planning and international development assistance to Malawi.

It is necessary to emphasize once again that for most countries of Tropical Africa, including Malawi, a significant increase in the population as a whole and individual age groups, in particular, is inevitable even with the greatest possible acceleration of the birth rate transition - due to the demographic inertia accumulated in recent years. This factor is of primary importance for all development forecasts of countries in the region, and it should be taken into account in all national and international programs that affect certain aspects of development.

The time horizon of forecasting covers the period up to 2100, but the projected population values are, of course, rather conditional and are given mainly to understand the scale of differences between the two scenarios. The forecast values for the period up to 2050 are much more specific, so when comparing the number of individual age groups, we focus on comparing the values predicted for the two scenarios for 2050.

To model the dynamics of mortality in all our scenario forecasts, we used age-specific mortality rates corresponding to the projected values of male and female life expectancy, according to the" average " scenario of the UN Population Division.

Data on the gender and age structure of the population of countries for 2010 (the base year of forecasts) were also taken from the UN Population Division database, data on the values of total and age - specific fertility rates-from the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey (MDI) 2 for the respective countries and from the most recent MDI.

Calculations have shown that the projected population of Malawi differs very significantly under the inertial and optimistic scenarios. It also depends on the level at which we expect the birth rate to stabilize -1.8 children per woman (as in all UN forecasts) or 2.1 children per woman (the level that ensures the natural reproduction of the population) (see fig. 2 and Table 1).

Malawi has one of the highest population densities in the region, with 127 people per 1 km2 in 2010.

page 30

Table 1

Absolute population of Malawi, according to various forecast scenarios, up to 2100


"Iranian" scenario - 1,8

"Iranian" scenario - 2.1

Inertia scenario - 1.8

Inertia scenario - 2.1
















Source: data for 2050 and 2100 - author's calculations. The population for 2010 is estimated by the United Nations Population Division.

Sub-Saharan Africa averages 34 people per 1 km2, according to the United Nations Population Division, or 174 and 40, respectively, according to the World Bank in 2013.

Diagr. 2 clearly shows that demographic development under an inertial scenario - i.e., a decline in the birth rate at the same rate that has been observed in recent years - is highly likely to put Malawi on the verge of a socio-demographic catastrophe, since it implies an almost threefold increase in the population - from 15 to more than 43 million by the early 2050s, i.e. in less than 40 years.

In order to avoid the most serious threats to socio-economic development and socio-political stability, it is necessary to significantly accelerate the birth rate transition. However, even at the" Iranian " rate of its decline, the doubling of Malawi's population by 2050 will be inevitable, and this circumstance clearly needs to be taken into account when planning and forecasting the country's development in the medium and long term.

Analysis of the projected number of individual age groups in the Malawian population (see Table). 2) further emphasizes the dangers of the inertial scenario.

To date, Malawi has almost reached the Millennium Development Goal No. 2.3- "Achieving universal primary education": in 2009, 97.5% of Malawian school-age children attended primary school. This was facilitated, in particular, by the fact that the payment for primary education in the country was abolished in 1994.Since 2006, a program of social cash payments has been implemented, which in 2010 numbered about 100 thousand beneficiaries. Under this program, poor families with school-age children received a monthly allowance of

Table 2

Absolute number of some age groups in the population structure of Malawi by 2050, according to various forecast scenarios (million people)


In 2010

"Iranian" scenario - 1,8

"Iranian" scenario -2.1

Inertia scenario

School-age children (6-18 years), mln





Youth aged 15-24, million





Youth aged 20-29, million





Demographic load factor I (number of persons under 15 and over 60 years of age per person of working age)





Demographic load factor II (number of persons under 20 and over 60 years of age per person of working age)





Demographic load factor for children (number of persons under 15 years of age per able-bodied person)





Demographic load factor for children and young people (number of persons under 20 years of age per person of working age)





Source: author's calculations.

page 31

Figure 3. Malawian agricultural productivity-value added per employee per year ($).

Source: World Bank. World Development Indicators, 2014 - http://data.

allowance of 2 thousand Malawian kwach (about $14) for expenses related to the education of children (purchase of textbooks and stationery, school uniforms, etc.)4. The program provided an additional 5% increase in primary education coverage for children of households participating in Program 5.

However, our calculations show that unless urgent, effective and large-scale measures are taken to accelerate the birth rate transition, the number of school-age children will grow 2.5 times in less than 40 years. Maintaining the achieved primary education coverage - not to mention the spread of secondary education-with such a rapid increase in the school-age population will pose a very serious challenge.

Extremely high risks are associated with an inertial demographic scenario for the country's economy and the standard of living of the majority of the population.

It should be noted that Malawi remains a predominantly agricultural country - only about 15% of the population is urban, the remaining 85% live in rural areas and are mainly employed in the agricultural sector, which, despite a number of national initiatives and projects implemented in recent years, remains extremely low-productive - less than $200* of value added per year. one employee per year (see page 3).

At the same time, the average size of land allotment in Malawi is only 0.5 hectares. About 70% of those employed in agriculture cultivate plots with an area of less than 1 hectare, while allocating 70% of the cultivated land to maize, the main food crop.6

Among the government programs of recent years aimed at developing and increasing agricultural productivity, the following can be noted.

The most well-known program is the Agricultural Development Source Subsidy Program, which has been implemented in Malawi since fiscal year 2005/6. The program covers about half of Malawian small-scale farming households and provides (at a maximum) 5-10 kg of seeds (mainly corn) and 100 kg of fertilizers. At a normal level of yield, this is sufficient to meet the annual corn needs of the average household. Note, however, that as the number of households covered by the program increased, the average amount of fertilizer received by a single farmer decreased from 85 kg in 2006/7 to 60 kg in 2012/13.7

Since 2004, the Government of Malawi, with the support of the World Bank (WB), has launched a large - scale Community-Based Rural Land Development Project, which relocates some landless rural residents from the southern regions of the country (where population density is particularly high) to underutilized land.

Each relocating family was allocated a grant of $1,050, 30% of which was intended for the purchase of land, the rest for the development of the farm. On average, each household purchased a plot of 2 hectares and had access to another 3 to 5 hectares of communal land. By 2012, more than 15,000 households had been resettled under the Program. Analysis of the results of the program showed that the labor productivity of "displaced persons" increased, on average, by 59-82%8.

Since 2009, the Government of Malawi has launched the Green Belt Initiative, which was supposed to offer a total of 1 million hectares of land on the coast of the lake to foreign and local investors. Malawi and major rivers for the development of irrigation agriculture on them 9.

However, as noted above, all implemented programs have failed to achieve any radical increase in labor productivity in agriculture, and since the late 1990s, this indicator has been in the range of $180-230 per employee per year (see figure 3).

Relatively high labor productivity is observed only in export-oriented industrial agriculture (primarily tobacco cultivation), but only a small part of all agricultural workers are employed in this segment. Moreover, rural nase-

* In constant 2005 dollars.

page 32

Figure 4. Per capita food consumption in Malawi, 1990-2014 (Kcal per person per day).

Источник: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 2014. FAOSTAT. Food and Agriculture Organization Statistics - aspx#ancor

export crops are also not immune to malnutrition and, in general, an extremely low standard of living, as they are extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in their prices on the world market.

A recent survey of a generation of children who "survived" a period of falling tobacco prices, under the age of 2, showed that children from households that produced tobacco at that time subsequently had significantly lower growth for their age (an important indicator of malnutrition) compared to their peers from other households.10

The need to accelerate the decline in the birth rate and population growth is supported by data on the dynamics of per capita food consumption. Despite significant improvements in this indicator in recent years (food consumption in Malawi increased by 400 Kcal per person per day between 1995 and 2009), Malawi has barely reached the WHO recommended food intake and has so far failed to exceed the level of 2,350 Kcal per person per day (see fig. 4), which, according to the classic work of G. Clark*, one of the world's leading experts in economic history, is typical of societies in the "Malthusian trap" 11. For example, a similar level of per capita food consumption was observed in England in 1800 and in Belgium in 1812 12

Ensuring continued growth in per capita food consumption (or even, at the very least, reliably consolidating the level achieved so far) will require maintaining not just high economic growth rates, but also GDP per capita growth, which, given the inevitable doubling of the population in the next 35 years, will be more difficult than ever.

In recent years, after two decades of food insecurity (and chronic shortages), Malawi has managed to achieve food self-sufficiency and independence from international food aid and food imports - including, experts say, through a fertilizer subsidy program (see above).

However, if the birth rate transition continues at its current pace and does not accelerate, Malawi expects its population to triple over the same time period - and this is very likely to lead to a destabilization of the food supply situation.

The inertial scenario will lead to an increase in the number of young people aged 15-24 years by more than 2.5 times by 2050 (and young people aged 20-29 years-by 3 times). We would like to emphasize that in less than 40 years, which greatly increases the risks of serious socio-political destabilization. The researchers note that the macro-initiatives listed above in the agricultural sector did not address the issue of the participation of the younger generation in the proposed transformations. Moreover, none of the strategic documents on Malawi's development, such as the 1995 Poverty Allocation Programme, the 2001 Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy, and the 2006 Malawi Growth and Development Strategy, have also been silent on the role of the rapidly growing world economy. the number of young people involved in implementing these plans is 13.

Indeed, the extremely unproductive agriculture of a small country is unlikely to be able to provide employment for young people, whose number will double. Most likely, rural youth will start migrating en masse to cities in search of employment. This will put a critical strain on existing urban infrastructure -only 15% of Malawi's population currently lives in cities, so creating housing, jobs and the necessary social infrastructure in cities for many young rural migrants will pose a major challenge.

Finally, the ratio of the working-age and non-working-age population will remain extremely unfavorable for economic growth

Clark G. 2007. A farewell to alms: a brief economic history of the world. Princeton.

page 33

countries, if the acceleration of the birth rate transition is not achieved soon.

The demographic load factor is one of the key demographic indicators for the economy. In particular, it described such a phenomenon as a demographic bonus / dividend, which is a high proportion of the working-age population and a low demographic load factor (a low proportion of the population in disabled ages, both young and old)14.Studies that have shown a significant role of the demographic dividend in the "economic miracle" of East Asian countries are widely known. 15

On the contrary, the lack of a demographic bonus and the high demographic burden factor due to the large number of child and youth cohorts (due to the extremely slow decline in the birth rate against the background of a noticeable decrease in mortality, especially in infants and children) caused approximately 2/3 of the economic lag of Tropical Africa from the rest of the developing world (the corresponding calculations are presented in the work of World Bank specialists 16).

* * *

Our calculations allow us to draw several conclusions of practical significance.

First, a doubling of Malawi's population by mid-century (in just under 40 years) is inevitable in any demographic development scenario, due to the enormous accumulated demographic inertia. Such rapid population growth will put a serious strain on the economy and social infrastructure and may threaten political stability. The factor of rapid population growth should be taken into account in all national programs related to the country's development planning. It is important to understand that the decline in the birth rate at the same rate that has been observed in recent years is highly likely to put Malawi on the brink of socio-demographic catastrophe, as it will lead to an almost threefold increase in the population by the early 2050s.

Secondly, in order to avoid the most serious threats to socio-economic development and socio-political stability, it is necessary to take effective measures that help accelerate the birth rate transition , such as significantly increasing the coverage of the population (especially girls) secondary education, dissemination of family planning programs (creating demand for modern methods of contraception and ensuring their availability for families in need, with special attention to rural areas), etc.

Korotaev A.V., Zinkina Yu. V. 1 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)

2 A series of Demographic and Health Studies was launched by the United States Agency for International Development Assistance (USAID) in 1984. Currently, more than 260 studies have been conducted in more than 90 developing countries around the world. These are nationally and regionally representative household surveys with a sample of 5,000 to 30,000 households, conducted at approximately 5-year intervals.

3 The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that 193 UN member States and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by 2015. They were formally established at the Millennium Summit in 2000. The MDG goal is to accelerate development by improving social and economic conditions in the world's poorest countries. For more information, see, for example: Matsenko I. B. Africa: implementation of the Millennium Development Goals / / Asia and Africa Today. 2012. N 8. p. 21-26; N 9. P. 17-21; N 10. P. 19-24. (Matsenko I. B. 2012. Afrika: realizatsiya "Tselei razvitiya tysyacheletiya" / / Aziya i Afrika segodnya. N 8, 9, 10) (in Russian).

Government of Malawi. 4 Malawi Social Cash Transfer Programme Update. Lilongwe: Government of Malawi and UNICEF Malawi, 2010.

Miller C, Tsoka M. 5 Cash Transfers and Children's Education and Labour among Malawi's Poor // Development Policy Review. 2012. Vol. 30, No. 4, p. 499 - 522.

Chinsinga B. 6 Seeds and Subsidies: The Political Economy of Input Programmes in Malawi // Future Agricultures Working Paper, No. 013. Brighton: FAC, 2010. Chinsinga В., Chasukwa M. Youth, Agriculture and Land Grabs in Malawi // IDS Bulletin. 2012. Vol. 43, N 6, p. 67 - 77.

Chinsinga В., Chasukwa M. 7 Op. cit; Resnick D., Tarp F., Thurlow J. The Political Economy of Green Growth: Cases from Southern Africa // Public Administration and Development. 2012. Vol. 32, No 3, p. 215 - 228; Dorward A., Chirwa E. The Malawi Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme: 2005/06 to 2008/09 // International Journal of Sustainability. 2011. Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 232 - 247.

Mueller V., Quisumbing A., Lira Lee H., Droppelman K. 8 Resettlement for Food Security's Sake: Insights from a Malawi Land Reform Project // Land Economics" 2014. Vol. 90, No. 2, p. 222 - 236.

Chingaipe H., Chasukwa At., Chinsinga В., Chirwa E. 9 The Political Economy of Land Alienation: Exploring 'Land Grabs' in the Green Belt Initiative in Malawi. Bellville. 2011.

Wood В., Nelson C, Kilic Т., Murray S. 10 Up in Smoke? Agricultural Commercialization, Rising Food Prices and Stunting in Malawi. Washington, D.C. 2013.

11 The "Malthusian Trap" refers to a situation typical of pre-industrial societies, where the growth in the production of means of subsistence (as a result of overtaking demographic growth) is not accompanied in the long term by an increase in per capita production and an improvement in the living conditions of the vast majority of the population, which remains at a level close to the level of hungry survival. See about this, for example: Korotaev A.V., Bozhevolnov Yu. V., Grinin L. E., Zinkina Yu. V., Malkov S. Yu. Trap at the exit from the trap. Logical and mathematical models // Projects and risks of the future concepts, models, tools, forecasts. A. A. Akaev, A.V. Korotaev, G. G. Malinetsky, S. Yu. Malkov. 2011, pp. 138-164; Korotaev A.V., Khalturina D. A., Malkov A. S., Bozhevolnov Yu. V., Kobzeva S. V., Zinkina Yu. V. Zakony istorii [Laws of History]. Mathematical modeling and forecasting of world and regional development. Moscow, URSS. 2010.

Clark G. 12 2007. A farewell to alms: A brief economic history of the world. Princeton.

Chinsinga V., Chasukwa M. 13 Op. cit.

14 See, for example, the classic work: Bloom D., Canning D., Sevilla J. The Demographic Dividend: A New Perspective on the Economic Consequences of Population Change. Santa Monica. 2003.

Bloom D. E., Williamson J.G. 15 Demographic Transitions and Economic Miracles in Emerging Asia // World Bank Economic Review. 1998. Vol. 12, No. 3, p. 419 - 455; Bloom D. E., Canning D., Malaney P. Demographic Change and Economic Growth in Asia // Population and Development Review. 2000. Vol. 26, supplement, p. 257 - 290.

Ndulu B.J., Chakraborti L., Lijane L 16., Ramachandran V., WolginJ. Challenges of African Growth. Opportunities, Constraints, and Strategic Directions. Washington, D.C. 2007.


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