By Godwin Okafor
Some economists see the births of 11,000 Nigerians every day as new consumers feeding an engine of prosperity, but others fear they will create a crisis of poverty and unrest.
Nigeria is set to become third most populous nation in the world by 2050 with around 400 million people. It emerged from its worst recession in a quarter century last year and launched a reform programme to rebuild its finances.
With a fertility rate of approximately 5.5 children per woman. The Nigerian government has made some effort to address the problem, but to no avail. It has made contraceptives free but many still do not have access to them and, in a religious society like Nigeria, their use is often frowned upon. Several government campaigns have aimed at encouraging people to have smaller families, but these have failed as well and are at odds with Nigerian cultural values.
Many societies in Nigeria have long valued large families as a sign of prestige and many cultures practice polygamous lifestyles. In some Nigerian villages, families with fewer than eleven children are considered small and incomplete.
This problem is very common in the developing world, where impoverished families view having more children as a plus as they can help the family earn money and do chores. Given high rates of child mortality, many feel the need to have larger families as a safe guard in case some children do not make it to adulthood.
Many other African countries are also experiencing population booms. Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s fastest growing region in terms of population. Currently home to slightly fewer than a billion people and accounting for about twelve percent of the population, by 2100 it is expected to have more than four billion people and account for one-third.
Many fear this rise in population growth will fuel poverty, hunger and civil strife. But the problems will be particularly acute in Nigeria. While some view this increase in population as a potential for more economic growth and status as a global hegemon, many others fear the population boom will cause the country to collapse. The rise in population is likely to place greater strain on Nigeria’s already strained infrastructure and services and increase poverty, unemployment and political instability.
With a rising population of 190 million people, Nigeria However, remains a low-income country and investment in infrastructure has not kept pace with a rapidly rising population, let alone spending on health and education.
Currently the seventh-most populous country in the world, the West African nation is projected to surpass the 300 million people mark by 2050, according to The World Population Prospects 2017.
The report predicted that the world population will hit a staggering 9.8 billion by 2050, and forecasted that over half of the expected growth between 2017 and 2050 is likely to occur in Africa.
While Nigeria’s population boom certainly has potential benefits it also poses a serious threat if it is not brought under control and many feel the government is not doing as much as it could or should. If Nigeria were to collapse because of its population boom, it would be a disaster for the entire African continent given the country’s economic and political weight. Poverty and overpopulation are intertwined with one another and it is impossible to tackle one without tackling the other.