By Alex Ezeh, Dornsife Professor of Global Health, Drexel University
I think about the future of my continent in terms of three questions: Are Africans healthy? Do they have access to a good education? And do they have opportunities to apply their skills?
Millions more Africans have been able to answer yes to these questions in recent years. But there’s an elephant in the room. One of the keys to keeping this progress going is slowing down the rapid rates of population growth in parts of the continent. But population issues are so difficult to talk about that the development community has been ignoring them for years.
Population growth is a controversial topic because, in the not-too-distant past, some countries tried to control population growth with abusive, coercive policies, including forced sterilization. Now, human rights are again at the centre of the discussion about family planning, where they belong. But as part of repairing the wounds created by this history, population was removed from the development vocabulary altogether.
For the sake of Africa’s future, we should bring it back. Based on current trends, Africa as a whole is projected to double in size by 2050. Between 2050 and 2100, according to the United Nations, it could almost double again. In that case, the continent would have to quadruple its efforts just to maintain the current level of investment in health and education, which is too low already.
But if the rate of population growth slows down there will be more resources to invest in each African’s health, education, and opportunity – in other words, in a good life.