What is Africa's Birth Rate

world population : Highest birth rate in sub-Saharan Africa

Cairo - Crown Princess Mary really went into raptures. The Danish monarch praised the population summit in Cairo: 25 years ago, the world found “a courageous vision” about the relationship between population, development and individual well-being - and more than 6,000 delegates applauded in approval.

At least in historical perspective, at the follow-up conference to the Cairo summit that ended on Thursday in Nairobi, everyone agreed: If population growth is to be brought under control, economic development and birth control must work together - and women as the main players in a solution must be at the fore become.

Indeed, mankind has made some strides since then: the percentage of women dying in childbirth has been reduced by almost half since Cairo; on the other hand, the number of women who have access to contraceptives rose by almost a quarter. Whereas in 1994 a woman had 2.8 children on average worldwide, it is still 2.5 today: If this trend continued, the number of people on earth would have stabilized in fifty years at the latest.

A new big city every day

From a close up, however, the success turns out to be dubious. While the birth rate in some parts of the world, such as Europe or China, has actually leveled out or is even declining, a population explosion is still imminent in other places - especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where the population will already be in the next 32 years will double again. In addition to the Indians, it is mainly Africans who ensure that there will be 8.5 billion in ten years' time instead of 7.7 billion people today. At the end of the century it should be as much as eleven billion. The world's population is currently growing by 230,000 people a day - a city the size of Kiel. That is 82 million people on earth who want to be fed and trained every year and expect a decent life.

In Niger, West Africa, a woman still has an average of almost eight children, and in just thirty years the number of Nigerians will have tripled to 60 million. At the same time, 40 percent of the world's extremely poor will live in two African countries: Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It has long been known that growing prosperity leads to falling numbers of children. But if prosperity - also because of the extreme increase in population - does not materialize, this correlation does not help either.

The second undisputed correlation: that the better education of girls reduces the fertility rate. "The longer a girl goes to school, the older she is when she gets married," explains a study by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development: "These girls have higher expectations of their future and contribute more to the family income." If they want to prevent unwanted pregnancies in their education and in their first few years of employment, they need access to contraceptives.

But the demand that “all women” have access to family planning services and be “kept away from all forms of sexual violence and harmful practices” is still a long way off. In traditional African communities, contraceptives for adolescents are considered "improper," says Candace Lew of the independent US health organization "Pathfinder International": "But like elsewhere in the world, African adolescents have sex, whether they have contraceptives or not." Every year there are 89 million unwanted pregnancies in developing countries - especially in Africa, child marriages and the social pressure to have as many babies as possible are still common practice.

All the more astonishing that there was a trend reversal in the second most populous country in Africa, Ethiopia. The number of children going to school has doubled in 20 years - the birth rate has fallen from almost seven to 4.6 babies per woman. At the same time, the use of contraceptives tripled: every fourth Ethiopian today uses long-term contraceptives such as intrauterine devices or hormone implants.

Health counselors help

Experts attribute the change primarily to the 34,000 female health workers the government has trained and hired since 2000: young women who must have attended school for at least ten years and then trained in hygiene, disease prevention and family planning for a year were. The counselors can - at the expense of the state - place pessaries and inject implants, which is why no Ethiopian today still has to travel for a day to have a contraceptive stick inserted in a hospital. "Ethiopia really surprised us," says Alisa Kaps from the Berlin Institute for Population and Development.