Sub-Saharan Africa: population pressures on development

Popul Bull. 1985 Feb;40(1):1-46.


PIP: The population of sub-Saharan Africa, estimated at 434 million in 1984, is expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2025. The birth rate, currently 48/1000 population, continues to increase, and the death rate, 17/1000, is declining. Rapid population growth has curtailed government efforts to provide adequate nutrition, preserve the land base essential for future development, meet the demand for jobs, education, and health services, and address overcrowding in urban areas. Low education, rural residence, and low incomes are key contributors to the area's high fertility. Other factors include women's restricted roles, early age at marriage, a need for children as a source of security and support in old age, and limited knowledge of and access to modern methods of contraception. Average desired family size, which is higher than actual family size in most countries, is 6-9 children. Although government leaders have expressed ambivalence toward development of population policies and family planning programs as a result of the identification of such programs with Western aid donors, the policy climat is gradually changing. By mid-1984, at least 13 of the 42 countries in the region had indicated that they consider current fertility rates too high and support government and/or private family planning programs to reduce fertility. In addition, 26 countries in the region provide some government family planning services, usually integrated with maternal and child health programs. However, 10 countries in the region do not support family planning services for any reason. Unfortunately, sub-Saharan Africa has not yet produced a family planning program with a measurable effect on fertility that could serve as a model for other countries in the region. Social and economic change is central to any hope of fertility reduction in sub-Saharan Africa. Lower infant and child mortality rates, rising incomes, higher education, greater economic and social opportunities for women, and increased security would provide a climate more conducive to fertility decline. Given the limited demand, great sensitivity must be shown in implementing family planning programs.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Demography*
  • Developing Countries
  • Environment
  • Family Planning Policy*
  • Fertility*
  • Politics*
  • Population Density*
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Population*
  • Public Policy*