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close this bookSustaining the Future: Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 pages)
close this folderPart 1: Economy and society: development issues
close this folderIntroduction to population, resources, and sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa
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View the documentIntroduction
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View the documentPopulation, agricultural land, and food supply
View the documentPopulation, economy, and sustainable development
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Introduction

The demographic structure of Sub-Saharan Africa in all its complexity is a considerable subject. This paper will therefore focus mainly on the major subcontinental and regional features of Sub-Saharan Africa's demography and will provide a brief introduction to the subject to serve as a foundation on which other more detailed discussions of poverty, development, sustainability, and resource management may rest. Many of the topics relevant to demography, such as urbanization, urbanward migration, natural resources, and environmental sustainability, have specialized treatment elsewhere in this collection of conference papers, and will receive only preliminary or partial treatment here.

Amongst the major regions of the third world, Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the smaller populations in total, at an estimated 543 million in mid-1992 (World Bank 1994: 163), more than Latin America and the Caribbean but much less than either South Asia or East Asia and the Pacific. It shares with Latin America and the Caribbean a very low population density of only 22 per km2, compared with 229 in South Asia and 103 in East Asia and the Pacific. However, in contrast with Latin America and the Caribbean, there are few great urban concentrations and virtually no major industrial regions outside South Africa. A much higher proportion of its population is rural (71 against 27 per cent) and widely dispersed, a feature of considerable significance in its economic development. Sub-Saharan Africa's population is one of the poorest and depends in many of its subregions on fragile tropical environments, for whose sustainable management its peoples often lack the skills required to cope with current economic and technological changes. There is also the problem of increasing pressure on resources generated by the highest rate of population increase in the world apart from that of the Middle East and North Africa - 3.0 per cent per annum in 1980-1992 against 3.1 per cent (World Bank 1994: 211).

Population structure and characteristics and their relation to the resources for sustainable development will be examined largely at the subregional and national level. Table 4.1 shows some of the basic demographic data for Sub-Saharan Africa estimated in 1990 (Population Reference Bureau 1990). The largest population of the subregions was in western Africa, with 206 million or 39.8 per cent of the estimated total of 518 million. Eastern, central, and southern Africa had 38.4, 13.1, and 8.7 per cent respectively. Doubling time for most of the subregions was estimated to be 23 years. Projected populations for Sub-Saharan Africa were nearly 702 million with approximately the same subregional balance by the year 2000, and 1.2 billion by 2020. Some differential size changes will occur, mainly by countries, reflecting different rates of population growth - three of the four subregions recorded the same rate of natural increase and doubling time (table 4.1, columns 2-5). In western Africa, half the countries listed had annual natural increase rates of 3 per cent or more, as did more than two-thirds of eastern African countries (at 3.8, Kenya and Zambia had the highest rates in Sub-Saharan Africa), while in central and southern Africa rates tended to be lower. As might be expected, very high total fertility rates (TFR) are widespread, with 13 countries listed as having 7.0 or more births per woman. Rwanda has the remarkable figure of 8.3, one of the highest in the world. It should be noted that, although there is some variation in the country-level data between published sources, all agree that Sub-Saharan Africa currently has the highest rates. Although Sub-Saharan Africa succeeded in reducing its infant mortality rate (IMR) from 142 per 1,000 live births in 1970 to 99 in 1992, compared with a reduction from 97 to 60 in the world IMR (World Bank 1994: 215), most of the countries in table 4.1 had IMRs above 100 (column 8), putting some brake on population growth. Very high IMRs were recorded in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Guinea, the Gambia, the Central African Republic, and Mozambique.

Table 4.1 Demogruphic indicators: Estimates and projections for Sub-Saharan Africa by subregion and country, 1990

Subregion/country Population estimate, mid-1990 (million) Birth rate (per '000 pop.) Death rate (per '000 pop.) Natural increase (annual, %) Population"doubling time" in years (at current rate) Population projected to 2000 (million) Population projected to 2020 (million)
  (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
Eastern Africa 199.0 47 17 3.0 23 272.8 474.5
Burundi 5.6 48 15 3.2 22 7.7 13.7
Comoros 0.5 47 13 3.4 20 0.7 1.3
Djibouti 0.4 47 18 3.0 23 0.6 1.0
Ethiopia 51.7 44 24 2.0 34 70.8 126.0
Kenya 24.6 46 7 3.8 18 35.1 60.5
Madagascar 12.0 46 14 3.2 22 16.6 29.6
Malawi 9.2 52 18 3.4 20 11.8 22.0
Mauritius 1.1 19 7 1.3 54 1.2 1.3
Mozambique 15.7 45 19 2.7 26 20.4 31.9
Reunion 0.6 24 6 1.8 39 0.7 0.8
Rwanda 7.3 51 17 3.4 20 10.4 19.7
Seychelles 0.1 25 8 1.7 41 0.1 0.1
Somalia 8.4 51 20 3.1 23 10.4 18.7
Tanzania 26.0 51 14 3.7 19 36.5 62B
Uganda 18.0 52 17 3.6 20 25.1 42.2
Zambia 8.1 51 14 3.8 15 11.6 22.0
Zimbabwe 9.7 42 10 3.2 22 13.1 20.9
Central Africa 68.0 45 16 3.0 23 91.1 156.0
Angola S.5 47 20 2.7 26 11.1 18.5
Cameroon 11.1 42 16 2.8 26 14.5 23.5
CAR 2.9 44 19 2.5 27 3.7 5.9
Chad 5.0 44 20 2.5 28 6.2 9.4
Congo 2.2 44 14 3.0 23 3.0 5.0
Eq. Guinea 0.4 43 17 2.6 27 0.5 0.8
Gabon 1.2 39 16 2.2 31 1.6 2.6
Sao Tome/Pnncipe 0.1 36 9 2.7 25 0.2 0.3
Zaire 36.6 47 14 3.3 21 50.3 90.0
Western Africa 205.7 47 17 3.0 23 279.3 480.9
Benin 4.7 51 19 3.2 22 6.6 11.7
Burkina Faso 9.1 50 18 3.2 21 12.5 23.0
Cape Verde 0.4 38 10 2.8 25 0.5 1).8
Cote d'lvoire 12.6 5t 14 3.7 19 18.5 35.4
Gambia 0.9 47 21 2.6 27 1.1 1.7
Ghana 15.0 44 13 3.1 22 20.4 33.9
Guinea 7.3 47 22 2.5 28 9.2 14.4
Guinea-Bissau 1.0 41 20 2.1 33 1.2 2D
Libena 2.6 45 13 3.2 22 3.7 6.5
Mali 8.1 52 22 3.0 23 10.7 19.2
Mauritania 2.0 46 19 2.7 25 2.7 4.5
Niger 7.9 51 21 3.0 23 11.1 20.6
Nigeria 118.8 46 17 2.9 24 160.8 273.2
Senegal 7.4 46 19 2.7 26 9.7 15.2
Sierra Leone 4.2 48 23 2.5 28 5.4 5.9
Togo 3.1 50 14 3.6 19 5.2 9.9
Southern Africa 44.9 36 9 2.7 26 58.7 95.3
Botswana 1.2 40 11 2.9 24 1.6 2.2
Lesotho 1.8 41 12 2.8 24 2.4 3.9
Namibia 1.5 44 12 3.2 22 2.1 3.9
South Africa 39.6 35 8 2.7 26 51.5 83.5
Swaziland 0.8 46 15 3.1 22 1.1 1.5

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