For most of our history, the human population grew slowly,
until new discoveries brought us more food and made us live longer,
in just 100 years, the human population quadrupled.
This led to apocalyptic visions of an overcrowded Earth.
But the population growth rate
actually peaked in the 1960s.
Since then, fertility rates have crashed,
as countries industrialize and develop .
The world population is now expected to balance out
at around 11 billion by the end of the century.
But the big picture conceals the details.
Let’s look at one region in particular
In 2019, it was home to 1 billion people, living in 46 countries.
Although its growth rate has
slowed down in the last few decades,
it’s still much higher than in the rest of the world.
While some projections
expect around 2.6 billion people,
others reckon with up to 5 billion by 2100.
Such growth would be a huge challenge for any society
But Sub-Saharan Africa is also the poorest region on earth
So, Is Sub-Saharan Africa doomed?
And, Why do the projections
vary by 2.4 billion people
As always, it’s complicated
Sub-Saharan Africa is a made-up ideal
and in many ways an unhelpful one
Botswana is as far away from Sierra Leone,
as Ireland is from Kazakhstan,
and they have about as much in common.
But without generalizing a little bit,
this video would be an hour long.
We’ve also talked to many different scientists for this video
and they disagreed on a lot of things.
Mainly on how much fertility matters to poverty.
We’ve done our best to summarize
our research and what they told us,
but take it with a grain of salt
and check out our sources
where we discuss this in more detail.
Okay, lets zoom out to the global perspective again.
A few decades ago, many countries in Asia were
at a similar point to Sub-Saharan Africa today
Large parts of the population were living in extreme poverty
and birth rates were very high
in the 1960s the average woman
had 7 children in her life time.
25% of them died before they turned 5
and of the ones that survived, only 1 in 5 would learn to read and write.
Life expectancy was around 45
and per-capita income was among the lowest in the world
So beggining in the 1960s,
Bangladesh started a family planning program,
based on 3 main pillars.
1.- Education helped to change women’s outlook.
Women with a higher education tend to want
fewer kids and become mothers later in life.
2.- Better health care lowered child mortality,
leading to parents wanting fewer children
because they could expect them to survive.
3.- Field workers brought contraceptives even to the remotest areas,
which drove contraceptive use from 8%
in 1975 to 76% in 2019.
Together these measures greatly slowed down population growth.
In 1960 the average bangladeshi woman had 7 kids, in
1995, 4 and in 2019 it was down to 2.
This also changed the country’s demographics and the economy.
Before, many children were born but died before they got to contribute to society,
as far fewer kids died and fewer kids were born
Kids get an education and turn intro productive adults.
The goverment was able to
shift some of their resources from lowering child mortality
to boosting the economy.
By 2024, Bangladesh is expected
to graduate form the category of “Least developed countries”
to the status of a “developing economy”.
Other asian countries like South Corea, India, Thailand or the Philippines
其他亚洲国家 像韩国 印度 泰国以及菲律宾
have gone through a similar process often even faster.
Investment in health and education
led to lower birth rates
wich changed the composition of the population
and enabled goverments to boost the economy
Why didn’t the same thing happened
everywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa?
Africa as a whole has made
considerable progress with childhood mortality.
But specially in Sub-Saharan Africa education has improved slower
than in other parts of the world
and while in total contraceptive use
has doubled in the region since 1990,
the unmet need for modern contraception among adolescents is still at about 60%.
The reasons for this are complicated
and it’s impossible to give a single answer here.
Africa is a big place with diverse cultures and people,
but there are a few main factors.
Many Sub-Saharan nations gave suffered under colonization
untill only a few decades ago,
and had rough transition periods towards independece.
The young nations were often ethnically heterogeneous and lacked unity.
Some areas have been repeatedly racked by civil wars,
military conflicts or suffered under unstable goverments
wich made it really hard to expand infrastructure and health care.
So Africa had a worse starting point than Asia.
Foreign aid and how it was applied,
especially during the cold war is also a contentious issue,
but this topic is too complex to summarize in a few sentences
so we’ll make a whole video about it in the future.
And lastly there are cultural aspects that make talking about
family planning in the context of Africa difficult.
Critics say that trying to bring fertility down
is an intrusion into culture and tradition
but not speaking about an issue will not help solve it.
Not all of these things apply to every country in the region,
we’re talking about 46 countries after all,
some of them deeply troubled others already flourishing,
all different and facing unique problems
If population growth continues at it’s present rate
then Sub-Saharan Africa
could growth to more than 4 billion people by 2100
Okay so, What can be done?
Actually, a lot,
specially investments and aid that help to build systems
for education, family planning and health care.
Surprisingly small changes could have an extreme impact
For example if women get a better education and
had their first child just 2 years later in life.
This tiny gap between this generation
and the next one would lead to 4 hundred million people in 2100
with 3.6 billion in total.
If education and family planning are made available to every african woman,
universal access to contraception,
makes having kids a decision.
If families get to choose how many kids they want,
birth projections fall by 30%
to 2.8 billion people.
This isn’t just theory,
there are already examples that are reason for optimism.
Ethiopia, the african country with the second biggest population
has made a lot of progress in a relatively
short amount of time.
Improving health services,
led to a drop in child mortality from 20% to 7% since 1990
and up to 30% of the annual budget was invested in education
and the number of schools increased 25 fold over two decades
there are serious challenges ahead but they are far from unsolvable,
Sub-Saharan Africa does not need pity or gifts
but attention and fair investment.
It’s a region rich in resources, culture and potential,
这里资源丰富 文化灿烂 发展潜力大
if things go right we’ll see
a turn around similar to the one we’ve seen
across most of Asia in the last 30 years
For most of our history, the human population grew slowly,