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Africa’s Demographic Trailblazers

How falling fertility rates accelerate development (2019)

Cover Africas Demographic Trailblazers Open image in Lightbox

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Nowhere else in the world is the population growing as fast as it is in Africa. By mid-century there could be 2.5 billion people living on the continent – almost twice as many as today. The main reason for this is the continuing high fertility rates, which make it increasingly difficult to provide hospitals, schools, housing and, above all, jobs for the up-and-coming generations.

In addition, the high fertility rates are hindering a change in the age structure that could generate a demographically determined boost to development of the kind the Asian tiger states experienced. In order to make progress in socio-economic development and to reap a “demographic dividend”, the decline in African fertility rates urgently needs to accelerate. A number of regional trailblazers have shown that a prudent demographic policy can make this possible. The study shows which interventions can contribute to accelerate fertility decline and what other African countries can learn from the experiences of these pioneering states.

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.

Themes: Demographic dividend, International population policies, Focus on Africa
published: 12th June 2019
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Selected Figures

Average number of children per woman 1950-2015
To date, Africa has lagged a long way behind other regions of the world with respect to a decline in fertility rates. Whereas states in Latin America and Asia experienced a rapid decline in the numbers of children born between 1960 and 1980, this trend began in Africa only 20 or 30 years later 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, and this is reflected in its fertility rates. While women in Niger still have more than seven children on average and those in Somalia more than six, the average fertility rates in states like Tunisia, Morocco and Botswana are already less than three children per woman. Other countries, such as Ethiopia and Senegal, are currently experiencing a rapid decline in fertility rates. States 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, with a certain time lag, fewer will be born. Reducing child mortality by investing in the health system is therefore an important measure to accelerate the decline in fertility. 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, too. Changing cultural norms and political commitment to implementing measures in key areas of development are other important factors.© Berlin-Institut


Alisa Kaps

Head of Department of International Demography

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Alisa Kaps Ressortleiterin Internationale Demografie

© Berlin-Institut


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