On a purely theoretical scenario, if today’s fertility rate were to remain constant, Africa’s entire population would rise to the staggering number of 16 billion by the end of this century (according to UN forecasts) – a population the entire Earth could hardly sustain. In practice, fertility rates have been declining, albeit very slowly and unequally at regional level. In the two regions, which host a significant share of Africa’s population, Central Africa and Western Africa, fertility rates per woman have declined very little from 1950 to 2015, to, respectively, 5.9 and 5.5 children per women according to UN data. This slight decline is very unevenly distributed among individual countries. The most fragile states have not yet entered or are only at the beginning of their demographic transition. While much lower, in North Africa, fertility has rebounded in the 2010-2015 period compared to the previous five years. This clearly shows the huge demographic potential of the continent. Even if fertility rates were to fall very quickly – another purely theoretical scenario – the population would continue to grow fast, because of ‘demographic momentum’, making further demographic growth in Africa a certainty.
Decline in fertility in Africa
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