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Free Minds & Free Markets

Yes, the Population of Africa Will Grow Tremendously This Century

Fortunately, even if conditions don't improve, economic freedom (and consequently growth) benefits not only the people who have it, but also people who don’t.

In my Reason column last week, I wrote about Africa's economic prospects in view of the continent's explosive population growth. A number of readers wrote to me in response to the article and I will attempt to address their most important concerns below.

First, readers wondered if my population estimates reflected the expected changes to the total fertility rate (TFR) among African women. Indeed, they have. The population data in the original article came from the United Nation's database, which adjusts for different fertility rate scenarios.

Holding TFR constant, the world would contain 26 billion people in 2100. Of those, 16 billion would live in Africa. Contrast that with the "low" fertility variant, which estimates a global population of 7.3 billion (3 billion in Africa). In my article, I referenced the "medium" fertility variant, which assumes a global population of 11.2 billion and African population of 4.4 billion.

Second, a number of readers wanted to know how Africa's population can grow so fast, considering that it is economically so backward. In the past, economic output supplied a Malthusian check on population growth. That does not seem to be the case anymore. Why? I tried to answer that question elsewhere. Simply put, economic freedom (and, consequently, growth) benefits not only the people who have it, but also people who don't.

Consider a concrete example. Between 1960, the year of African independence, and 2015, the income gap between sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and the United States has actually widened. In 1960, average GDP per person in SSA amounted to 6.31 percent of the same in the United States. Over the next 55 years, incomes in SSA adjusted for inflation grew by 55 percent. But they grew by 203 percent in America. That meant that in 2015, SSA amounted to 3.21 per cent of American income.

However, the gap in life expectancy, which is the best indicator of the overall standard of living, between the two has shrunk!

In 1960, SSA life expectancy was 58 percent that of the United States. Over the next 55 years, SSA life expectancy grew by 47 percent, while American life expectancy grew by 14 percent. So, in 2015, SSA life expectancy rose to 75 percent that of the United States.

To put it in terms of years, SSA life expectancy rose from 40.17 years to 59 years, while US life expectancy rose "only" from 69.77 years to 79.16 years.

Africans, in other words, did not have to become rich in order to start experiencing longer and better lives. Instead, all of Africa benefited from the technological advances that occurred elsewhere. The airplane, an American invention, flies life-saving medicines into the deepest Congo. Synthetic insulin, a Canadian invention, saves lives in South Africa. The photocopier, another American discovery, is making it easy for poor kids to learn how to read in Angola.

Third, assuming that a) the African population will grow as expected and b) economic conditions do not improve sufficiently to soak up all the additional workers, what will the future generations of Africans do?

The European TFR is well below replacement rate of 2.1 and the average age of Europeans is increasing. Already 17 percent of Europeans are over the age of 65. The African population, in contrast, is going to remain relatively "young" for decades to come.

In 2014, 84 out of 100 Africans had a cell phone and 20 out of 100 used the internet. It is unlikely that future generations of young Africans will want to sit around and see their lives wasted away in dysfunctional places like Niger or Burundi—when better alternatives are possible.

Whereas the United States is separated from Africa by a vast ocean, mass movement of people from Africa to Europe is relatively easy. So the obvious answer to the African conundrum seems to be immigration to Europe. If you like these statistics, please visit Human Progress.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    So the obvious answer to the African conundrum seems to be immigration to Europe.

    Let's see how Europe likes being the one colonized for a change!

  • DJF||

    But we now know that European colonizing of Africa was bad, so Africa colonizing Europe must also be bad and so that is not an option.

    What Africa needs is the Free Market, not socialist Europe.

  • sarcasmic||

    I am getting to know someone who is a vegetarian in part because she believes that the resources uses to feed cattle and such could solve world hunger.

    The next time the subject comes up I am going to point out that free markets bring food to where it is needed.

    I will invite her to show me on the map a place where people are truly starving that has free markets.

    I don't expect it to sink in, but one can always hope.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    She's both a vegetarian and anti-markets? I've never heard of such a thing.

  • sarcasmic||

    I don't think she's anti-markets. I just know that when I asked her why she was a vegetarian (pescawhatever, she eats fish) she said that all the corn and soy and whatever that is fed to the cattle could feed starving children or something.

  • sarcasmic||

    As long as she doesn't want to force her idealism onto others through legislation, I've got no problem. Still it would be nice to make a free trader out of her.

  • BYODB||

    Or you could mention that there's plenty of food for those people in the world today that just rots away because of government intervention along with shitty trade policy and especially bad policy in Africa itself.

    No, really, there is honestly enough food. There's more than enough on Earth for both us, and cattle, and whatever other animals we find. Thanks, Monsanto.

    And she's a Pescetarian. My soon-to-be-wife was once one of those but it was because red meat made her literally sick. We got that fixed, this is Texas after all. Good luck!

  • LarryA||

    "But, it isn't the cows you eat that get fed the children's cornflakes, it's the cows you don't eat."

  • Longtobefree||

    So how does she feel about bio-fuel? Is literally burning corn to make her car move something she is OK with?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I am getting to know someone who is a vegetarian in part because she believes that the resources uses to feed cattle and such could solve world hunger.

    Wow, it is the 90s all over again.

  • Azathoth!!||


    Let's see how Europe likes being the one colonized again!

    FTFY

  • Citizen X - #6||

    -1 Neanderthal race

  • AndreLinoge||

    Yeah, it's going to be a net benefit to Europe.

  • DJF||

    """"Whereas the United States is separated from Africa by a vast ocean, mass movement of people from Africa to Europe is relatively easy. So the obvious answer to the African conundrum seems to be immigration to Europe.""""

    If this is true then shouldn't all the Syrian refugees be sent to Israel which is right next door?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Africa a new great place to live!!

    **Here's hoping that they have wide open borders unlike the USA**

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Just in time for the Ebola outbreak 2017 in the Congo!

  • Glide||

    Yes, One in Four People Are Expected to Live in Africa By 2100

    Not it!

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Do we get to choose which part? If so, i call Wakanda.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    China's population growth rate will level off, if not crash, but India will make up the difference, so it is likely to be 2 Asians to 1 African.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I would be remiss if i did not point out that "2 Asians to 1 African" is a very popular porn search.

  • Ken Shultz||

    We shall overwhelm
    We shall overwhelm
    We shall overwhelm, someday!

    My understanding is that, cross culturally, fertility rates drop in response to two things: 1) falling infant mortality rates and 2) more opportunities for women to contribute to family income by working outside the home.

    In regards to the first point, The Gates Foundation immunizing children in Africa against childhood diseases is ingenious. Children are social security in countries without it. In your old age (or if your husband dies young), having surviving children is economic security. The sacrifices you make to raise more of them are worth the investment--it's like investing in a hedge fund in places with high infant mortality rates. Having more children means you're more likely to have boys and one of your boys is more likely to survive.

    As Africans migrate to Europe, the infant mortality rates they experience are likely to drop to the same as other European--with better medical infrastructure, better sanitation, etc. The lower the infant mortality rate, the less the cost of raising children makes sense and the fewer children people have--and that's a cross cultural phenomenon.

  • sarcasmic||

    There is an inverse relationship between fertility rates and wealth.

  • Ken Shultz||

    There is an inverse relationship between fertility rates and economic growth, cross culturally--mostly for two reasons.

    Here are the reasons: . . .

    Here are the factors impacting those reasons . . .

    Here's why I'm optimistic about one of those reasons making a dent in the fertility rate and not the other . . .

    Here's an open invitation to dispute not only my observations about what's going to happen and why--but also an invitation to add to them.

    I guess that's about as tight as I can go without getting into the reasons themselves. Incidentally, I don't generally care about what other people think so much as I care about why they think it. I care about why they think I'm wrong, too--and it's hard to get that addressed if they don't know why I think what I think.

    This is how I learn, and, yeah, I learn from commenters here.

  • sarcasmic||

    I try to be pithy. You are very verbose. Not a judgment, just an observation.

  • Mark22||

    Not historically. There is right now because of tax and welfare policies

  • Free Society||

    As Africans migrate to Europe, the infant mortality rates they experience are likely to drop to the same as other European--with better medical infrastructure, better sanitation, etc.

    1) It will take time for African immigrant fertility rates to decline, perhaps a gradual decline over a few generations. In that intervening time, they stand to become a large proportion of the population if not an outright majority.
    2) The fertility rates will fall much slower than the models are typically predicting owing to welfare statism which is indirectly promoting the growth of one segment of the population at the direct expense of another segment which in turn diminishes the resources available for the productive class.

    It will be a disaster for Europe, for western civilization and European peoples.

  • Mark22||

    Europe has been a basket case since the beginning of the 20th century anyway.

  • Lester224||

    One welfare state policy that prevents population growth is subsidized birth control. The ROI for subsidized birth control (especially long term methods like IUDs and shots) is very good.

  • Mark22||

    Lots of things correlate with declining fertility rates, that doesn't mean they cause them.

  • Careless||

    My understanding is that, cross culturally, fertility rates drop in response to two things: 1) falling infant mortality rates and 2) more opportunities for women to contribute to family income by working outside the home.

    Both of which have already happened in Africa without a declining fertility rate in much of it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    In regards to the second point, women are afforded few opportunities to contribute to family income outside the home in African and Muslim countries. Migrating to Europe is unlikely to change that calculation (more children vs. working for pay) so long as Europe embraces slow growth policies like high taxation and heavy regulation of labor, generous welfare, etc.

    I'd like to think Europe will change in response to anemic growth, but they already seem willing to suffer anemic growth rates rather than embrace deregulated labor markets--and an influx of cheap labor is likely to see them double down on more regulation to protect the status quo in the hope of staving off creative destruction. Color me less than optimistic on that count.

  • Careless||

    In regards to the second point, women are afforded few opportunities to contribute to family income outside the home in African and Muslim countries

    wildly ignorant.

  • prolefeed||

    Holding TFR constant, the world would contain 26 billion people in 2100. Of those, 16 billion would live in Africa. Contrast that with the "low" fertility variant, which estimates a global population of 7.3 billion (3 billion in Africa). In my article, I referenced the "medium" fertility, which assumes a global population of 11.2 billion and African population of 4.4 billion.

    So, 1 in 2, 1 in 2, and 1 in 2.5? Is any of those close to 1 in 4?

    Someone appears to be bad at math.

    And in realizing that extrapolating current trends 80 years out is a fool's game.

  • I can't even||

    Europeans may not agree that the answer to any conundrum is to turn Europe into Africa.

  • Rhywun||

    It is unlikely that future generations of young Africans will want to sit around and see their lives wasted away in dysfunctional places like Niger or Burundi—when better alternatives are possible.

    I find it unlikely that Europe will be willing to absorb a few billion Africans.

  • I can't even||

    But Africa is so awesome. Who wouldn't want their town turned into an African village? All the muliculturalists tell me that living in an African ghetto is no better or worse than a German or Danish town.

    Racism is obviously the only reason that white people aren't moving to Chad, Nigeria, and Mozambique right now.

  • Rhywun||

    At the end of the day I can see Europe inviting a few million Gastarbeiter to make up for their unwillingness to produce children and then closing the door. Outbreaks of violence of varying degrees to occur at several stops along the way.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Middle Eastern countries will take them, just like they always do in a refugee crisis.

  • Stoic||

    There are plenty of African immigrants already in the U.S., so I don't think the distance is much of a barrier. Immigration policies will be a bigger factor in where folks choose to go.

    I worked with a lot of African immigrants when I lived in Madison, WI. Many (most?) of them were sending money to relatives in Africa. One colleague planned to work for 10 years and put as much as possible into savings, then return to Liberia where that savings would be more than enough to live on for the rest of his life.

  • BYODB||


    "Holding TFR constant, the world would contain 26 billion people in 2100."


    Why even mention this, since it's been well proven that 'holding it constant' is something that never happens. Is it like tangentially mentioning Creationism in a conversation about Evolutionary mechanics? It seems like even the 'Medium' rate is probably way off base as well, but time will tell. It's definitely not going to stay constant though, like for sure it won't.


    "Africans, in other words, did not have to become rich in order to start experiencing longer and better lives."


    I wonder if it has anything to do with the tons of material and medical aid Africa receives from the first world along with massive efforts to curb the AIDS epidemic? Naah...

  • J_West||

    ""Whereas the United States is separated from Africa by a vast ocean, mass movement of people from Africa to Europe is relatively easy. So the obvious answer to the African conundrum seems to be immigration to Europe."

    But why would they want to move to Europe where they will experience racism, micro-aggressions and all the horrors of white privilege? There is nothing wrong with one-man-one-vote black majority rule countries like Zimbabwe now that the terrible colonizers have been overthrown. I am sure that Africans will lead the way in creating a continent wide market utopia. In Africa.

  • Longtobefree||

    Same models as climate change?

  • Longtobefree||

    Same models as climate change?

  • Mark22||

    Fine with me, as long as they don't try to come to the US.

  • Stephen54321||

    I can well believe that Africa has a population boom. But the standout is Nigeria. It currently has a population of about 182 million, but has a population growth rate of around 2.6% (in contrast, the US only has about 0.8%). For that reason it is expected that by 2050 Nigeria will overtake the US as the third most populous nation in the world (it is currently sitting at number seven).

    If it continues at that same pace eventually it will overtake even China and India,

  • Empress Trudy||

    Until they run out of everything except the wherewithal to kill one another, at any rate.

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