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The Challenge Of Population Growth In Africa Economics Essay

It is generally agreed that the challenge of population growth is one of the most serious obstacles to development faced by LDCs in the 21st century. In the long process of human history, the relationship between the production of material goods and human reproduction is always interdependent. Therefore, a certain economy is the foundation of the existence and development of human beings; meanwhile, the reproduction of human beings is the condition for the development of economy. The historical experience has proved that the population growth has to keep relative balance with the development level of economy; otherwise, the human society will be punished by nature certainly.

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It is undeniable that the fertility of Africa is always out of control since the independence of African countries. In 1970s and 1980s, the average fertility rate of Africa reached 6.8 and 6.7; however, it was still high was around 5.4 in 2004 [1]. Besides the high fertility rate, the size of African population has never stopped increasing. In 1960, the African population was 282 million, which was 9.3¼… of the world population; however, in 2005, the African population had reached 906 million, which was 14.0¼… of the whole population in the world [2], in the 45 years, the African population increased trebly. Since Africa has the highest population growth rate and the second largest population in the world, the “population burden” will put more pressure on the development of economy though Africa is always suffering from poverty. To get through difficult situations, the African countries have to recognize the negative effects of rapid population growth on the development of economy.

First, the poor capital accumulation is the bottleneck of development in Africa. The development of economy requires solid foundation, and the material capital is the motive force of the development. The classical economist, Adam Smith emphasized that the accumulation of capital was the precondition of specialization [3]. For African least developed countries, they have abundant resource and labor, and the capital input can determine the level of economic development. Either of low capital output ratio and poor capital accumulation will hinder the development. According to the demographer’s estimation, an 1¼… increase on the population will lead the country to pay 3¼… to 4¼… of gross national income on the investment of additional population [4]. If more national income invests on the population growth, which means the investment on production will be limited strongly. As the rapid increase on the population in Africa, the structure of population is very youthful and the youth dependency ratio is always highest in the world [5]. Every year, African governments have to take a certain share of new output value to invest on the latest additional population, but Africa is also the region comprising many poorest countries. In 2000, the World Bank made public a name list of fifty nine poorest counties in the world, and thirty eight of them were in Africa [6]. Therefore, substantial fund have been “ate” by the large population, which leads to low saving ratio and large financial gap.

The second negative effect of the large population on LDCs refers to the low quality of the population. In fact, the quality of population can determine the quality of labor directly, and human capital is always regarded as the key of the economic development. Theodore Schultz, the winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, believed that a health and highly educated population was playing an important role in a country’s development [7]. However, the high rise of African population really hinders the improvement of human capital. On one hand, the investment from governments on education has fall much behind the rapid population growth in Africa, which leads to extremely heavy pressure on the education, such as the shortage of educational expenditures and teachers, low school enrollment ratio, high illiteracy rate. In 2001, the UNESCO reported that Africa was the poorest continent in education where the literacy rate was less than 60¼… [8]. On the other hand, since the mid of 1970s, the African population growth rate was always going beyond the agricultural productivity rate, the self-sufficiency rate of grain and the per capita food expenditure kept decreasing. According to the Malthusian Population Trap, the universal tendency for the population of a country will grow at a geometric rate, however, the food supplies can expand only at a arithmetic tae [9]. Therefore, the food supplies can never satisfy the demand by rapid population growth in Africa. In fact, the African malnutrition population increased from 94 million in 1970s to 210 million in 1990s [10], and now the per capita food expenditure for African population reaches only 85¼… of the standard set by United Nations [11]. Since the African economy really depends on the agriculture and the export of primary products, the physical labor is still needed in the most regions. So, we have to doubt such large unhealthy and uneducated population could make contributions to the economic development in 21st century.

Third, the LDCs have to face the high unemployment rate which is brought by rapid population growth. Todaro points that an excess of job seekers over job opportunities in the LDC economy is the one of the major negative consequences of population growth [12]. In fact, it is normal that every country has a certain amount of people are in unemployment, but once the proportion of unemployment is excess, the economic development will be hindered and the whole society will become instable. Since the independence of Africa, every year the population within working age is becoming larger, and the labor force growth rate has excessed the economy growth rate, the economic sectors cannot create enough job opportunities to fulfill needs. In 1990s, there were average 10 million African people seeking job per year, however, the economic sectors could only absorb half of the additional labor force [13]. Even though the largest economy in Africa, the unemployment rate of South Africa was 41.8¼… in 2002 [14]. We can imagine how terribly high the unemployment rate of other more backward African countries is. Therefore, substantial labor force cannot be made full use of in Africa which really hinders the enlargement of production scale and optimization of industrial structure, in return, the economic backwardness will increase the unemployment rate. Eventually, it is hard for the LDCs to get rid of the vicious circle which combines high employment rate and poor economy.

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In fact, the “population growth” is a neutral phenomenon, in the 3/4 time of 20th century, the development of economy was accompanied by the population growth. However, the rapid population growth can slow down the economy growth and hinder the improvement of living standard, especially for LDCs whose foundation of economy is quite weak. If LDCs really want to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, they should recognize the importance of education and health to control the rapid population growth immediately.


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