• Study

Africa’s Demographic Trailblazers

How falling fertility rates accelerate development

Cover Africas Demographic Trailblazers Open image in Lightbox

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Population growth rates in Africa are the highest in the world. By mid-century, there could be 2.5 billion people living on the continent – almost twice as many as today. This is mainly a result of high fertility rates, making it increasingly difficult to provide hospitals, schools, housing and, above all, jobs for future generations.

High fertility rates also prevent a shift in the age structure that could boost growth, as experienced by Asian tiger countries. Fertility rates on the African continent need to fall rapidly for socio-economic development and to reap a “demographic dividend”. A number of regional trailblazers have shown that careful demographic policy can make this possible. The study highlights interventions that can contribute to declining fertility rates and discusses what other African countries can learn from the experiences of these pioneers.

The Berlin Institute would like to thank the Federal Foreign Office for funding the project. The Berlin Institute is solely responsible for the content of the study.

Focus Areas: Demographic dividend, International population policies
published: 12th June 2019

Selected Figures

Average number of children per woman 1950-2015
Africa lags far behind other world regions with respect to a decline in fertility rates. Latin America and Asia experienced a rapid decline in the number of children born between 1960 and 1980, whereas this trend began 20 to 30 years later in Africa and at a much slower pace. With more than four children per woman on average, the fertility rate in Africa today is the same as it was in Asia and Latin America in the 1970s.© Berlin-Institut
Average number of children per woman 1990/2020
Africa is a diverse continent, as reflected in its fertility rates. While women in Niger still have more than seven children on average and in Somalia more than six, average fertility rates in countries like Tunisia, Morocco and Botswana are already below three children per woman. Other countries, such as Ethiopia and Senegal, are currently experiencing a rapid decline in fertility rates. Countries that are still at the beginning of the demographic transition can learn from the experience of these regional trailblazers.© Berlin-Institut
Child mortality in Africa
If fewer children die, then in time fewer will be born. Reducing child mortality by investing in the health system is therefore an important measure to accelerate a decline in fertility rates. Better education, job creation, access to family planning methods, more gender equality and increasing urbanisation all have a direct or indirect effect on fertility rates. Changing cultural norms and political commitments to implementing measures in key areas of development are other important factors.© Berlin-Institut


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