Letter from a Professor of Demography

3 October 2005 | Population Control in Africa, from Professor David Coleman

Sir, In southern Africa, AIDS is a prime obstacle to the amelioration of poverty. But in western and eastern Africa, where AIDS is much less prevalent, the prospect of the doubling of populations every 30 years or less will frustrate all efforts unless it can be moderated.

United Nations projections suggest that the population of Niger will grow from about 11 million today to 53 million in 2050; that of Somalia from 9 to 40 million; that of Ethiopia from 66 to 171 million. The Congo, whose horrors have seldom been out of the news, is expected to grow from 49 to 152 million.

Much of that growth arises from the poor access to family planning knowledge and services, which is seriously underfunded and neglected. In Niger today the birthrate is equivalent to an average family of 7.5 children, in Ethiopia 6, in Uganda 7.

Many women wish to limit their families but cannot: others, as in Niger, have not even made that step and still want the numerous children whose fate we see with depressing frequency on our televisions. A small fraction of the resources promised to Africa directed to promoting awareness and the means of family limitation would greatly help to moderate the continent’s future problems, including that of Aids.

The pressure-group ideology that prevailed over science at the influential Cairo Conference on Population and Development of 1994, and subsequently, has managed to exclude population considerations almost completely from all the recent reports.

Reducing population growth will not of itself solve Africa’s problems, but without it they will become insoluble.

(Professor of Demography)
Oxford University

Courtesy of The Times 3rd October 2005

Pressure group ideology had effectively prevailed over science long before 1994. Rapid redoubling of populations, which caused anxiety in the 1950’s and 1960’s, was rarely mentioned as a major cause of extreme poverty from the 1970’s onwards. This triumph of ideology over science was helped perhaps by the fact that, by 1970, effective contraception was available to everyone in the developed countries so that our own prosperity was secure and the effects of rapid population increase were felt only in poor countries far away. GD.