Implementation of the Dakar/Ngor Declaration and the programme of action of the ICPDICPD+5 logo
 

Home
Home

BACKGROUND TO THE ASSESSMENT

The human development situation in Africa as measured by different indicators points to a rather low standard of living for the people of the region. According to the UNDP's Human Development Index (HDI), 37 out of 48 countries categorized as "low human development" are in Africa (UNDP, Human Development Report 1997, New York, 1997) and 54 per cent of the African population are estimated to live in absolute poverty. In addition, the associated low income, underemployment, illiteracy, malnutrition, poor health, low status of women and the deteriorating environmental conditions coexist with high levels of fertility, mortality and morbidity in the continent.

 

In this section, an overview of the population dynamics, the socio-economic dimensions, the population and development situation as well as the policies and programmes is presented.

 

 

 

Table of contents

 

   Population Size & Growth

 

   Fertility

 

   Mortality

 

   Urbanization

 

   The Economy

 

   Education

 

   Health

 

   Employment

 

   Population & Food Security

 

   Population & Environment

 

   Gender & Population

 

   Policies & Programmes

 

 

Top
Table of Contents

Population Size & Growth

The African population increased from 320 million in 1965 to 778 million in 1998 representing an annual increment of 13.9 million people. About 634 million persons are expected to be added to the regional population during the 2000-2025 period. The regional share of the total world population is expected to increase from about 13.1 per cent in 1998 to about 18.1 per cent by 2025 (i.e. 5per cent increase) as against relatively slight changes in the other two major developing regions: Latin America with a change from 8.4 per cent to 8.6 per cent (i.e. only 0.2per cent increase) and Asia from 60.5 per cent to 59.5per cent (i.e. 0.5per cent decrease).

According to the medium variant projections of the United Nations, the annual population growth rate in Africa will decline from 2.6 per cent in 1995-2000 to 1.98 per cent in 2020-2025. At the current population growth rate, Africa is expected to double its 1998 population size by the year 2025. This makes Africa the only major area that is projected to have more than twice its current population size by 2050 when the population is projected to reach 2.05 billion (United Nations, World Population prospects: the 1996 Revision, United Nations: New York, 1998).

 

At the sub-regional level, indications are that population growth rates will have declined significantly by 2025 particularly for the northern and southern sub-regions which are expected to exhibit annual population growth rates below 1.5 per cent. At the country level, only seven countries have moderate population growth rates of between 1 and 2 per cent during the 1995-2000 period; sixteen countries have high growth rates of between 2 and 2.5 per cent; and thirty eight countries have very high population growth rates of more than 2.5 per cent (Ibid).

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

Fertility

Africa has also the highest fertility rate in the world with a total fertility rate (TFR) estimated at 5.31 children per woman (1995-2000). This level which was typical for Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean in the early 1970s, is a result of early and near universal marriage; and a rather low age at marriage (although the regional median age for marriage is rising). Other causal factors include a rather stretched age pattern of fertility and the low contraceptive prevalence rates (CPRs). About 36 per cent of lifetime fertility occurs either early (12per cent between ages 15 and 20) or late in the child bearing period (24per cent between ages 35 and 50). Teenage fertility is high in Middle Africa (206 births per 100 women), Western Africa (158 births per 1000 women) and Eastern Africa (145 births per 1000 women). At the country level, Guinea (241 births per 1000 women), Angola (236 births per 1000 women) and Liberia (230 births per 1000 women) register the highest teenage fertility during the 1990-95 period. The CPR among women of child bearing age is below 15 per cent in most countries although some countries in the northern and southern sub-regions register relatively higher prevalence rate. For example, among currently married women aged 15-49 years in Botswana, Egypt, Namibia, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe, CPS ranged between 28.9 and 49.8 percent for the 1988-1993 survey years. Other countries with high CPRs are Kenya (33 per cent) and Mauritius (75 per cent) and those with the lowest prevalence rate (for the same period) are Nigeria (6 per cent) and Mauritania (4 per cent).

 

Although the TFR level in Africa is expected to decline to 3.28 children per woman by the year 2025, there are differences in levels and trends at the sub-regional level. For example, during the 1995-2000 period, Eastern, Middle, Western, Southern and Northern Africa each has an estimated TFR of 6.05, 6.01, 5.95, 3.92 and 3.67 children per woman, respectively. During the decade 1980-2000 period, Northern Africa experienced the sharpest fertility reduction among all world regions: the TFR decreased by 1.88 births per woman or by more than a third. Fertility decline for the other sub-regions ranged from modest in East Africa (12per cent) to marginal in Western Africa (2per cent). Conversely, the current TFR in Southern Africa is much lower at 3.9 births per woman reflecting a 20 per cent decline since 1980-1985. Fertility decline has not started in a number of countries; the highest TFR level (above 7.0 children per woman) is found in Ethiopia, Niger, Somalia, and Uganda with exceptions being Botswana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe where fertility has declined by 26, 22 and 18 per cent respectively in the period between World Fertility Survey (WFS) and Demographic and Health Survey (DHS).

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

Mortality

Mortality rates in Africa, although declining, are high relative to those in other developing regions. The crude death rate (CDR) for the region is estimated at 12.9 per thousand population in 1995-2000 as compared to 8.5 for other developing regions. The region has also the highest level of infant mortality rate (IMR) with 86 infant deaths per 1000 live births in 1995-2000. Variations of IMR among the sub-regions are wide: Eastern Africa, has the highest IMR of 99 while Southern Africa has an IMR of 50 (just about half that of Eastern Africa). Africa also exhibits the highest child mortality (145 deaths per 1000 children born alive during the first five years of life) in the world. The child mortality varies between 164 in Eastern and Western Africa to 86 and 87 in Northern Africa and in Southern Africa, respectively.

 

Since the 1950-55 period, the estimate of life expectancy at birth for the region has increased by 16 years. However, the current level of life expectancy of 54 years is very low compared to 63.6 years for the less developing regions. There are also marked variations in the levels of life expectancy at birth; the highest in Northern Africa (64.6 years) and the lowest in Eastern Africa (49 years). At the country level, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Rwanda have 37.5, 41.4 and 42.1 years of life expectancy at birth in 1995-2000 respectively, thus qualifying as countries with the lowest life expectancy at birth in the world. Maternal mortality in the region still remains the highest in the world; in the early 1990s about 40 percent of the maternal deaths in the world have occurred in Africa. The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among the young and the working age group has brought about significant demographic, social and economic impact in these countries. According to WHO estimates, as at 1994, about 16 million adults and 1.5 million children were living with HIV/AIDS worldwide; of the adults, 10.6 million were in Africa (WHO, 1995, Ibid). Twenty-four countries in Africa had reached the adult seroprevalence rate of 2 per cent in 1994.

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

Urbanization

The two distinguishing characteristics of urbanization in Africa are the low proportion of urban population and the high rate of urban population growth. The urban proportion was 18 per cent in 1960 (34 per cent for the world) and by 1985 the proportion had increased to 30 per cent (41 per cent for the world)8. By the year 2000, the proportion is expected to be 38 per cent in Africa and 47 per cent for the world. By 1960-65, the average annual urban growth rate for Africa was 4.9 per cent, compared with 3.1 per cent for the world, 3.7 percent for Asia and 4.4 for Latin America and the Caribbean. During 1995-2000, the urban growth rate is 4.2 per cent per annum for Africa, 2.3 per cent for the world, 3.0 per cent for Asia and 2.1 per cent for Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus, Africa maintains its position as the region with the fastest growing urban population among world's major regions.

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

The Economy

Since the early 1970s, Africa has been in an economic crisis. However, the situation has improved since 1995 to the extent that most countries of the region enjoy economic expansion due to primarily internal macroeconomic reforms, improved domestic policy environment, the relatively favourable external conditions and, in some cases, increased political stability. The gross domestic product (GDP) in the region grew by 2.3 percent in 1995 compared to 2.1 percent and 0.7 percent in 1993 and 1994, respectively. Some countries even showed as high as 6 to 7 percent growth rates in their economy - Burkina Faso (6%), Côte d'Ivoire (6.6%), Ghana (6.9%), Kenya (6.1%), Malawi (6.2%), Mali (6.0%) and Togo (6.7%). Hence, in the mid 1990s, GDP growth rate was higher than population growth rate in 19 African countries (ECA, Report on the Economic and Social Situation in Africa (E/ECA/CM.22/4), 1996). Similar improvements were also registered in the political and social spheres. Thus, such economic, political, and social developments did form a basis for a growing hope that with a continued reform, Africa had a distinct opportunity to meet basic human needs and sharply reduce poverty in an environment of economic growth. However, the hope from all these was soon shattered as these improvements could not be sustained in the face of drought, social unrest, civil strife or political crisis which continued to disrupt production and other economic activities and impede reforms in various countries.

 

As at now, the food situation remains a serious source of concern in many countries. According to an FAO report, the continent experienced a food deficit of 19.6 million metric tonnes in cereals in 1995 for which commercial food imports and food aid were needed ( FAO, Food Requirements and population Growth, Rome, 1996). Moreover, currently Africa accounts for 44 of the 88 countries classified as low-income food deficit countries. Food shortages are more severe in drought-affected areas especially in the Sahel region where food production grows at rates lower than the population growth rate.

 

The external debt and debt-servicing obligations of Africa continues to pose a major threat to economic recovery. Reports from the World Bank and various national sources indicate that Africa's total external debt reached $322 billion in 1995, growing by about 4 per cent over the $310 billion recorded in 1994 and representing 70 per cent of the regional GDP and 250 per cent of exports. The share of multilateral debt in the long term outstanding debt of Sub-Saharan Africa has risen from 13 per cent in 1980 to 24 per cent in 1990 and 31 per cent in 1995. The capacity of these countries to service their debt has not improved despite several efforts made by the concerned governments. The share of the region in aggregate world trade continues to fall steadily from 5 per cent in 1980 to 3.1 per cent in 1990 and 2.3 per cent in 1995. Net flows of official development assistance (ODA) to Africa also declined from $25 billion in 1992 to $21.5 billion in 1993, to reach the level of $23.5 billion in 1994.

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

Education

Although literacy rate showed slight improvement in the majority of African countries over the last three decades, it is still the lowest in the world. For population aged 15 years and above, it changed from 40 in 1980 to 56 in 1995 as compared to 70 and 77 for the world for the same periods (UNESCO, Statistical Yearbook 1995, UNESCO: Paris, 1996).

 

In 1980, there were 159 million adult illiterates in Africa as compared to 179 million in 1995. In the near future, the number of adult illiterates in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to rise because of the continuing influence of low school participation rates in circumstances of high population growth rates. UNESCO also estimates that there will be 12 countries with adult literacy rate below 50 percent by the year 2000. While there has been substantial progress in reducing male/female disparities in illiteracy, the gender differential remains pronounced in Africa. In 1995, for example, literacy rate for men was higher than that of women in 46 countries (UNESCO, 1995, Ibid). Considering that education for women is particularly important for its proven multiplier effects on the development process, the gap between the male and female literacy rates indicate the society's underdevelopment. UNESCO data reveal that increase in gross enrolment ratio in Sub-Saharan Africa between 1970 and 1990 more than doubled from 7 percent to 17.5 percent. However, the gross enrolment ratio was still very low compared to other regions of the world.

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

Health

A large majority of the population, particularly those in rural areas of Africa, still lack health services. Coverage for sanitation is particularly worse in those areas. On the other hand, according to data from the World Bank, almost the entire population of Egypt, Mauritius, Tunisia and about two-thirds of the population in Nigeria and Morocco have access to health care (World Bank, Development in practice, a new agenda for women's health and nutrition, Washington, D.C., 1997). In those countries with greater access to health services and to safe water and sanitation, infant and under-five mortality rates were reduced.

 

Rapid urbanisation associated with the spread of slums and squatter settlements in many cities force millions of the dwellers to live in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions. Such settlements are breeding grounds for infectious, respiratory as well as contagious diseases as they have acute shortage of clean water and adequate sanitation. Lack of adequate and safe water and sanitation are the two major underlying causes of mortality and morbidity in rural and urban slums where millions of the poor live in developing countries ( WHO, Water supply and sanitation collaborative council; UNICEF, Water supply and sanitation sector monitoring report 1996: sector status as of 31 December 1994, Geneva, 1996). In addition to shortage of water and sanitation, the pressure of fast growing population engenders acute shortage of food, energy, housing and sheer space in urban areas. Urban concentrations of impoverished people tend to exert parasitic impact on their resource support zones in the hinterlands, contributing, for example, to accelerating deforestation through unsustainable demand for fuel-wood.

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

Employment

In the past, some African countries had registered impressive rates of economic growth through expansion of commodity and mineral exports and some degree of industrialisation. But, because the pattern of development was capital intensive and import oriented, the registered economic growth did not generate adequate employment opportunities. The projected GDP growth in the late 1990s for Sub-Saharan Africa is not either expected to generate employment rise at a rate of more than 2 per cent annually while the labour force is growing at annual rate of 3 to 3.5 per cent. Projections indicate that the economies of the region would need to grow at a rate between 4 to 6 per cent per annum to meet the employment needs of new entrants to the labour force (ILO, African Employment Report 1995 Geneva, 1995). This is equivalent to creation of 10 million additional jobs in the public sector every year, a task very difficult for the majority of African countries.

 

Unemployment has been high in African countries. Available studies indicate that in the early 1990s, unemployment rate in the region was about 15per cent and the rate was much higher in urban areas, 23 per cent (ILO/JASPA , African Employment Report, 1990 Addis Ababa, 1990). Furthermore, those studies indicate that the number of unemployed persons in urban areas is growing by about 10 percent annually. The flow of the surplus labour from rural to urban areas to escape poverty has contributed to the urban employment problem. The bulk of this labour force ended up being underemployed in low productive activities in the informal sector or openly unemployed.

 

Lack of economic growth has acted as a constraint on the growth of productive employment which in turn has contributed to keeping households below the poverty level. The incidence of absolute poverty is expected to increase from 48 per cent in 1990 to 50per cent in 2000. The high rate of urbanisation is believed to exacerbate the incidence of urban poverty in the continent.

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

Population & Food Security

Food security issues are a great concern to African countries as a result of several factors including high population growth, drought, declining soil fertility, inappropriate agricultural technology, social conflicts and civil wars. Despite some improvements in the food supply situation recorded after 1970s in several African countries, many others failed to make progress and some even experienced outright reversals; consequently, their dependence on food imports grew steadily. Based on the estimates/projections provided by IMPACT, about 158 million metric tons of grains/cereals will be needed to feed the population in Sub-Saharan Africa (IFPRI, Global Food Projections to 2020: Implications for Investment, 1995). Of this amount, 83,5 per cent would be covered by domestic production implying that food imports, particularly cereals will be a significant burden on the African economies. Imports of cereals in the region are projected to increase at the rate of 3.5 per cent per year, from 9 million tons in 1990 to about 27 million tons in 2020.

 

Per caput food production index has also fallen from 112 in 1970 to 101 in 1980, 98.4 in 1990 and 95.2 in 1995. About 40 percent of the total African population, some 250 million people, largely children and women, face mounting problems of poverty and malnutrition. Unlike Asia and Latin America, Africa has been unable to improve its coverage rate of energy requirements by its food supplies (FAO, Food Requirements and Population Growth, Rome, 1996). Initiatives undertaken by countries to combat famine and malnutrition both individually and collectively in the short, medium and long term have, by and large, have failed. Population pressure on land is also very strong particularly in those places where population densities have increased by 66 percent over a 20 years period; consequently, cultivated land per capita has declined significantly.

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

Population & Environment

Poor agricultural productivity in Africa is worsened by existing poor macro-economic performance, neglect of rural development, reduced and uncertain levels of rainfall, armed conflicts and civil strife, natural disasters, inadequate land tenure, lack of women's right to land and inappropriate technologies used in all areas of the food chain. But above all, population pressure is the main cause of natural resources degradation in Africa. Because the large majority of the African population live in rural areas and are poor, they derive their livelihood mainly from the exploitation of natural resources; they cultivate fragile soils and clear forest-land for food production, irrespective of the sustainability of the natural resources.

 

Environmental degradation reinforces the links between poverty and fertility. The problem of environmental degradation hits hardest at those least capable of withstanding it, the poorest of the poor. Moreover, degradation of land resources reduces rural women's productivity and the opportunity cost of their labour time. For example, degradation of tree cover, range and drinking water resources can increase the time cost of fuel-wood gathering, livestock pasturing and water fetching, activities that children can undertake, and that consequently increase their value to parents. Since these links are potentially strongest in areas where fertility is already high, they tend not to decrease fertility rates, but to make fertility reduction harder to achieve. This leads to a vicious circle whereby population increase leads to environmental degradation and reduction of agricultural productivity that in turn favours high fertility rates.

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

Gender and population

The extreme demand put on women in carrying out the multi-faceted roles of reproduction and production is well documented. It has been estimated that in many African countries women might be working 12-13 hours a week more than men (Adepoju, A. and Oppong, C. (eds.), Gender, Work and Population in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1996). The incidence of greater working hours has even increased recently among the poorest women who must make ends meet providing their families with nutritional requirement, water and fuel supply. It means that women and children, particularly girl children in rural areas, have to spend more hours on household chores, walking greater distances in search of fuel wood or water. This has many implications in terms of the time taken away from other productive activities. Besides, the burden of trying to balance the multiplicity of tasks with rudimentary technologies, not only compromises women's health but the nutritional pattern of the household (Ibid). A direct consequence of the mother's health and nutrition is related to the survival of an infant. The multiple demands on women's time and the need to use children labour also prompt women to maintain high fertility.

 

 

Table of
contents
Table of Contents

Policies & programmes

Because of the increasing level of awareness of the negative implications of population growth on development, a number of African countries have formulated population policies and programmes to reduce fertility and hence population growth rates. Some of these policies are based on the right of individuals and couples to decide fully on the number and spacing of their births and the right to information, education and communication and to the means to exercise these rights.

 

Furthermore, many countries have established institutional mechanisms to oversee the implementation of the population policies and programmes at different levels of the hierarchy. Besides institutional structures, some governments have configured population programmes, instituted legal frameworks, increased financial resources allocated to population related programmes and also demonstrated willingness to facilitate the complimentary activities of NGOs, the private sector and the civil societies.

 

Government efforts have been supplemented by IGOs, bilateral donors, NGOs, the private sector, and the civil societies. The recognition and facilitation of the work of NGOs, the civil societies and the private sector by the governments have greatly assisted governments to deal with the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the national population policies and programmes.

 

However, despite the heroic efforts made by governments and supplemented by IGOs, bilateral donors, NGOs, the private sector, and the civil societies many African countries have found it difficult to adopt and implement population policies and programmes in line with the DND and ICPD.PA. There are many constraining factors for the setback. The precarious and fragil nature of the political and economic conditions are among the constraining factors.

 

It is in this context that the Follow-up Committee established by the Third African Population Conference (Dakar, 1992) has been monitoring the implementation of the DND and the ICPD-PA which highlighted matters of quality of life. The Third Meeting of the Follow-up Committee held in September 1998 was convened as the Africa Regional input reviewing the progress made five years following the ICPD. The details of that meeting can be found in the Proceedings section of this site.

 
 

Visit one of the six thematic areas identified in the assessment of the African experience.

 

 

 

 Theme 1 Reproductive health and rights

Reproductive health & rights

 Theme 2 Family, youth and adolescents

Family, youth & adolescents

 Theme 3 Gender empowerment

Gender empowerment

 Theme 4 NGO and private sector roles

NGO & private sector roles

 Theme 5 Policy and development strategies

Policy & development strategies

 Theme 6 Advocacy and IEC Strategies

Advocacy & IEC Strategies

 

 

Top
Top

Home
Home