The Herald (Harare)

10 July 2012

Africa: Time to Look At Population Growth

opinion

What is surprising is that Africa and some developing countries in Asia and Latin America never discuss their ever-increasing population problem except China.

No one should advocate reduction of a number of children by forced abortions.

But most demographers are agreed that the world does not have enough food to feed the ever-increasing populations, nor does the world have enough resources to lift third world populations from poverty.

Through its policy of one child per family, China has managed to uplift about 400 million of its people from poverty in the last ten years. China has also managed to cater for its population from increased economic growth. Africa, in particular, is actually degenerating into poverty through unabated population increase. It is estimated that over sixty percent of Africa's population lives on less than US dollar a day.

Abject poverty is haunting African people. Some say this is due to droughts and never ending ethnic wars.

It is debatable whether the lack of food and displacement through wars would limit the population. But it is not so. More and more children are being born despite the hardships.

Refugee camps are full of babies who lack nutrition while the men keep on impregnating the women. Even aid workers are baffled that procreation can still continue under such harsh conditions. The men have nothing to do except to sleep with women.

Under such conditions, surely birth control should be practised. The women should be prevented from bearing children. Family planning would be a luxury.

Others say that it is preferable to limit the number of children per woman to at least two.

It is up to politicians to address this issue of cutting the number of children per family. The advent of HIV and Aids cannot be used to limit families through deaths. The birth control policy should be implemented together with the prevention of HIV and Aids.

Where there is no adequate treatment for HIV and Aids, families must be encouraged to get tested for HIV and then advised not to have more children if they test positive. Another aspect that must be considered is to offer sterilisation to both mother and the father after the birth of at least two children.

One country adopted a policy of paying for the education of only two children to make the men and women realise that they would have to take an extra burden if they went on to bear more children.

Developing countries do not have enough resources to cater for their large populations. Although religious bodies always preach against the policy of birth control, abortions and even family planning, governments must ignore such opposition and introduce policies that would benefit the population here on earth.

In most developed countries, they applied a policy of family planning, a free education system which empowered women to naturally reduce their families.

After the second World War, many women became professionals which limited child birth to one or two children per woman.

Women started to pursue other activities rather than be chained to the home to produce children.

The developed countries embarked on economic development and creation of wealth that reduced their appetite for wars. They developed stable political systems that prevented any civil strife. When a society is contended, the number of children per woman is reduced. Poverty has been the scourge of population increase.

It will take centuries for Africa and other developing countries to achieve a universal health and education system, especially with the lack of development Africa is facing. Economic growth rates in Africa are below the rate of population increase. Even China with its high economic growth will take more hundreds of years to completely eliminate poverty in its population.

Africa is doing nothing to reduce population growth.

Africa will face more wars and strife from marginalised populations. As long as the economic growth cannot address service delivery to the population and make food available to increased population, there will be instability in many countries.

A case in point is that of South Africa, which has adopted a policy of government hand-outs to disadvantaged families. That will soon become a stop measure as money runs out to support such a policy due to population increase. Developed countries have found out that their benefits policy has its limitations.

Now, they cannot finance their programmes because of lack of economic growth.

Not only that, some governments borrowed money to finance their social policies. They are now failing to pay their debts. Where does that leave Africa?

The policy of birth control has to be implemented without delay. Gone are the times when Africa relied on vast acres of land as a way of asking people to fend for themselves. Land is becoming scarce due to increase in population. A film in Kenya on birth control caught the imagination of the country.

The story was that a father left 200 acres to his two sons which he gave each 100 acres. One son had nine sons while the other had only one son.

The brother with nine sons wanted the ten boys to share the two hundred acres. The one brother with one son refused and stated that his son would inherit 100 acres and those nine boys of his brother would share their father's 100 acres.

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