World Population Day, an annual designation by the United Nations, serves as a moment to acknowledge the ever-evolving world around us. The global population has recently surpassed 8 billion people, with India surpassing China as the most populous country. However, amidst these milestones, concerns about the “Great People Shortage” have emerged, with countries like China, Japan, Germany, and the US potentially facing population decline by 2100, which could have significant economic implications.
“In just the past 12 months, the world’s population topped 8 billion people for the first time,” highlighted UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “It’s a chance to take stock at just how rapidly the world around us is shifting.”
While some nations grapple with the possibility of an aging and shrinking population, other regions are poised for significant population growth. Nigeria stands out as one of the most prominent examples. Just four decades ago, Nigeria’s population was under 80 million, ranking outside the top ten most populous countries. Since then, its population has nearly tripled to 225 million, propelling it to sixth place.
“Nigeria will nearly double its population again by 2050 to an estimated 377 million,” according to the most recent UN projections, noted Guterres. “That’s incredible for a country that is just a bit bigger than the area of Texas.”
This remarkable growth reflects the broader expansion of the African continent. According to UN estimates, five out of the eight countries expected to account for half of the world’s population growth over the next 27 years are in Africa. The Deputy Director of the Africa Programme Chatham House in London, Tighisti Amare, highlights that Africa is the fastest-growing and youngest continent, with 70% of the population being under 30.
“The population growth is, of course, partly explained by improvement in level and access to public health,” stated Amare. “That has led to a decrease in child mortality. And that by itself is good news.”
Amare also pointed out that Africa’s young population offers advantages, as most African nations do not face the burden of a large elderly population reliant on taxes and pensions. This demographic advantage can be beneficial for the economy as well.
“The other good news is that also by having a young population, most African nations do not have the burden of a large elderly population that relies on taxes and pensions, which can be a strain on the economy as well,” Amare explained.
She further emphasized that the youth demographic fosters the production of more workers in the tech industry. This development increases the likelihood of domestically-driven solutions to issues like climate change, benefiting Africa as a whole.
“Because of such a young population, countries like Nigeria are producing more workers in the tech industry,” Amare stated. “This increases the possibility that the solutions for issues that impact Africa, such as climate change, are developed domestically.”
While these population dynamics present advantages, rapid population growth also brings challenges. Michael Herrmann, an economic adviser with the United Nations Population Fund, warned about the need for proper planning to address the needs of a rapidly expanding population.
“They have decided to meet the needs of people in terms of education, of health care, housing, food, water, energy, security,” Herrmann explained. “They want to create full employment for the people, and a growing population can raise the stakes in these efforts.”
Herrmann emphasized that meeting these objectives to achieve social progress becomes more difficult with a growing population. Furthermore, it may lead to growing pressures on the environment, necessitating comprehensive planning and efforts.
“It makes it harder to achieve these objectives, to achieve social progress, and also it might come with growing pressures on the environment,” Herrmann cautioned.
Regardless of how Nigeria and other fast-growing African nations handle their explosive growth, World Population Day gives us a chance to reflect on the dramatic human shifts that will reshape our globe in the decades to come. These shifts include both opportunities and challenges, highlighting the need for sustainable and inclusive approaches to ensure a prosperous future for all.