Why is the population of South Africa growing

Africa is growing - and poverty is increasing

1.3 billion people live on the African continent. In 32 years there should be twice as many, and if the growth of the economy cannot keep up with that of the population, poverty will rise. The foundation of Microsoft founder Bill Gates took this trend as an opportunity to publish a new study. The forecasts in the current report "Goalkeepers 2018" are rather bleak: by 2050, around 40 percent of the world's extremely poor population will live in only two countries: Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

There are currently around 190 million people in Nigeria. Each woman gives birth to an average of five children there. And that has consequences: "It is already looking pretty bad in Nigeria," said Farouk Jega, director of the Nigeria office of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in an interview with DW. "Rising poverty exacerbates the security situation, causes unrest and crime is also increasing. The Minister of Health is promoting modern contraceptives, but only ten percent of women use them." In particular, poor women and families often have no access to condoms or other means.

Traditional image of women

In large parts of Nigeria - as in many African countries - a traditional understanding of the role of women dominates. To change that, the government is working with civil society, religious leaders and traditional leaders, says Jega. With success: the residents are already discussing the disadvantages of child marriages and the widespread stereotype that many children are a guarantor of pension provision. Jega: "It is a long process to change people's consciousness and behavior."

A health officer measures the circumference of a child's arm in a camp for displaced persons in Nigeria

Jega believes that providing more education for women and innovative sources of income for them is the best way to turn the problem into opportunities. But so far the birth rate has not decreased. In the fight against overpopulation, the Gates foundation suggests investing more in the health and education of young people. "If every woman in sub-Saharan Africa were able to have the number of children she really wants, population growth would have been reduced by 30 percent," she writes.

Men asked too

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ongoing wars make development work difficult, says Frederick Okwayo, a member of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Johannesburg. "The logistical supply is difficult because of the poor infrastructure. But we try to go to the refugee camps and help people there, including family counseling," says Okwayo. It is important for all countries: Men must be included in order to show them the advantages of smaller families. Governments are also called upon to lead reforms and support aid organizations.

Africans currently make up around one sixth of the world's population

Nigeria's population will grow to 400 million by 2050, and the Congo will have two and a half times as many people as it does now, says Alisa Kaps, a member of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. Given these rates, the supply of food, health facilities and work is becoming increasingly difficult: "Economic growth is being eaten up by the high growth in the population," says Kaps in a DW interview. "Nearly 20 million people in Africa grow into working age every year, but there are only three million formal jobs available. Where will the money come from?"

Ideological opposites

There are still African presidents who advocate an increase in births, says Kaps. "I think that's questionable." One of them is John Magufuli in Tanzania. At the beginning of September, he asked women to stop using contraceptives because the country needed more people. More than half of the 53 million Tanzanians live below the poverty line of two dollars a day. Magufuli was not deterred by criticism from the opposition and forbade an American aid organization to advertise family planning in the media.

According to the Gates study, African women are having more children than they would like - also because they have no access to contraceptives

Other countries stand in stark contrast to Magufuli's policies: In the years after the genocide, Rwanda has improved the once desolate health system - including family planning. The small country has increased contraceptive use among women by 60 percent and, like Botswana, is one of the success stories when it comes to slowing population growth.

Above all, Ethiopia is changing "from hunger land to bearer of hope" - according to the title of a study by the Berlin Institute published on Friday (21.09.2018). The number of children per woman has fallen from seven to four and a half because the government has hooked into the three core areas of health, education and job creation, said Alisa Kaps. "This is the fastest drop in the birth rate in sub-Saharan Africa." More than 30,000 women have been trained as health workers and every community offers basic health care. This not only affects population growth. According to Kaps, life expectancy has increased by six years to around 66 years.