The Population Factor and Economic Growth and Development in Sub-Saharan African Countries

  • Blessing Uchenna Mberu African Population and Health Research Center, APHRC Campus, Nairobi
  • Alex Chika Ezeh African Population and Health Research Center, APHRC Campus, Nairobi
Keywords: age difference, fertility, Uganda, partners, DHS.


Background: The consequences of rapid population growth for development and policy options for addressing undesirable population trends remain at the core of demographic enquiry in developed and developing countries. In this paper, we re-examine the data on the particular relationship between population trends in sub-Saharan Africa and economic growth and development. We use case studies of Zambia and Botswana to demonstrate the implications of different rates of population growth in the push to eradicate different dimensions of extreme poverty and hunger.Methods: We use extensive review of published and grey literature; the search of databases of the United Nations and World Bank; and analysis of relevant secondary data. Results: The economic profile of Botswana and Zambia were similar in the late 1960s but since the early1980s, Botswana has maintained one of the world's highest economic growth rates, diversified its economy and ranked as the most wealthy and most stable country on the African continent.On the other hand, Zambia's economy lacked economic diversity, with heavy external indebtedness,and high levels of poverty. We show how divergent demographic indicators (fertility levels, population growth rates, and dependency ratios) for Botswana and Zambia since the 1960s offer understanding of their divergent economic trajectories over the same period. Data from 42 SSA countries show that average gender gap in primary enrolment is negatively associated with rates of population growth. Conclusions: Our analysis highlights the inevitable role of population factors in achieving key development goals and the need for interventions, such as investments in voluntary family planning, around alleviating pressures caused by rapid population growth to poverty reduction, maternal and child mortality, and women’s empowerment. 

Author Biography

Blessing Uchenna Mberu, African Population and Health Research Center, APHRC Campus, Nairobi