PfAL 4’s Martin Namasaka co-writes an article with Milou Vanmulken in the Africa at LSE blog, arguing that exploiting the stalled fertility transition to meet the SDGs in African countries is contingent on improving public health and education institutions and promoting the informal sector as well as agriculture.

Recent estimates of Africa’s population indicate that in less than three generations, 41% of the world’s youth will be African (Ibrahim, 2012). Proponents of population growth postulate that this could act as a dynamic engine for agricultural growth and technological innovation. In contrast, pessimists predict that impending doom is correlated with this population growth given challenges such as food insecurity, depleting natural resources, rising unemployment, political instability as well as heterogeneous limits to growth in the continent’s economic prospects. The underlying limitation in these claims lies in understanding precisely how Africa can transform this population boom into economic gains to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

First, African countries will only reap a sizeable demographic dividend, if fertility rates decline rapidly. In light of the East Asian miracle, conventional theory posits that socio-economic development is a key determinant of fertility decline (Notestein, 1953; Easterlin, 1975). This experience offers valuable lessons for African countries, to focus on socio-economic development as an initial condition towards fertility decline. By declining mortality as well as fertility, East Asia experienced a rapid demographic transition between 1965 until 1990, leading to growth of the working age-population, four times compared to the young and elderly dependants, which primarily reduced the dependency ratio (Bloom et al., 2002).

Read the full article in the Africa at LSE blog.