The world’s population is increasing dramatically each year. With 1.2 billion inhabitants, Africa contributes massively to this population increase. The reason for this increasing population lies in two factors: birth rate and death rate. Due to improvements in medicine, Africa’s death rate is decreasing and people are living longer! However, Africa’s birth rate is still very high. This is due to a number of reasons including social expectations, the need for children within families and a lack of knowledge regarding family planning.

HOW HAS THE WORLD’S POPULATION CHANGED OVER TIME?

Over the past one hundred years, the world’s population has been increasing dramatically. It took until 1800 for the world’s population to reach one billion people. Today, only two hundred years later, the population has increased by more than six billion. There are now 7.7 billion people living on earth. With a population of 1.2 billion, Africa is the second most populated continent in the world. By 2050, it is estimated that the world’s population will have increased by 2.4 billion, with Africa contributing more than 50% of this increase.  

WHY IS AFRICA’S POPULATION INCREASING?

There are two factors which affect the rate at which a population grows: birth rate and death rate. Since the middle of the 20th century, the world has made huge advancements within medicine and healthcare. This means that, on the whole, people are healthier and are expected to live longer; that is, the death rate has decreased. While in 1955, life expectancy in Africa was only 37, people in Africa today expect to live to the age of sixty! However, Africa’s birth rate (the number of live births per every 1000 people in the population per year) is still very high compared to global rates. With people living longer and many children being born each year, Africa’s population is increasing rapidly.

WHY IS THERE A HIGH BIRTH RATE IN AFRICA?

There are many reasons why women (or families) have a large number of children. While factors which influence each woman’s decision to have children vary, there are also similarities. These are three of the most common reasons:

  • Some women want large families. Sometimes, this can be due to social expectations. In some communities, it is considered normal to have many children. As such, some women fear disapproval if they go against this social norm.  
  • In some areas, the child mortality (death) rate is high. This leads to high birth rates as families require more children to work, earn money and to look after parents in their old age.
  • Some women do not have access to information about family planning. Family planning is the practice of controlling the number of children a woman has through the use of contraception (birth control). It has many benefits for both the mother and the family. When women are able to choose when to become pregnant, they are generally healthier and have a better personal well-being. By planning how many children to have, families can also make sure they will be able to adequately support and provide for each of their children.