The link between access to modern contraceptives and lower fertility rates cannot be denied. Family planning prevents unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and unnecessary maternal deaths.
Read the article published in the Economist below:
THROUGHOUT most of the developing world, falling fertility has been a quiet, almost stealthy force improving people’s lives. Because it is easier to educate two children than five, lower fertility goes hand in hand with higher skills and increased earning power in the next generation. With fewer dependent children, countries experience several generations in which working-age adults make up a disproportionate share of the population. That makes possible a “demographic dividend” of higher growth and rising incomes.
But one part of the world is missing out on the dividend: the swathe of Africa that lies south of the Sahara and north of Namibia and Botswana. Although this belt is enjoying economic growth, countries within it are not seeing their fertility rates fall by as much as happened in East Asia and Latin America when those regions were at a similar level of development. In some African countries, such as Niger, fertility remains sky-high; in others, such as Ghana and Tanzania, fertility began to fall, then stopped.
With fertility, small variations build up to make a huge difference over time. In 1970, there were 360m Africans and they amounted to a tenth of the world’s population. If fertility were to drop roughly in line with Asia’s 1970-2000 trajectory, there would be 2.1 billion Africans by 2050. If it continues on its current path, there will be 2.7 billion—a quarter of the global population then. Africa’s population will almost triple in 40 years.
This extra half-billion people will damage Africa’s prospects. The continent will find it hard to educate the next generation—and education is the most important step in realising the demographic dividend. By 2050, there could be twice as many Africans below 14 years of age as there are now. Despite a decade of growth, the continent is not generating enough jobs in the formal economy to finance education properly. And if population growth and urbanisation continue at their current pace, the continent’s big cities could become ungovernable. Kinshasa could have 30m people by 2050; Lagos, 40m. That would make them larger and harder to manage than China’s giant cities are now.
There are many possible explanations for Africa’s continued high fertility. Africa is less densely-populated than Asia, and its wide-open spaces may lead societies to feel that they need to have lots of children to defend their territory from more numerous rivals. Many Africans have communal social arrangements which mean that the costs of having extra children fall on the village rather than the family. But another likely reason is that modern family-planning services are not widely available. And this can be changed.
In most developing countries, 60% of women of childbearing age have access to modern contraceptives. In much of Africa, the rate is 20%. There is a clear link between the provision of contraception and lower fertility. Uganda and Tanzania have roughly the same income per head, but Uganda’s government—until recently—discouraged family planning, and the country has a significantly higher fertility rate. Somalia and Eritrea have roughly the same income per head, but Eritrea provides some family planning and has much lower fertility.
Modern contraceptives are a cheap way to reduce maternal deaths from dangerous abortions. They free parents from the burden of unwanted pregnancies. And they help create lower-fertility, higher-income societies that benefit everyone. African governments should provide them universally.
Read the original article here.