Updated: Dec 14, 2019
The African continent, commonly known for its many cultures and languages, is the world's 2nd most populous continent and a home to some of the biggest exporters of mineral resources and agricultural produce globally. The biggest exporters such as Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria and Ethiopia make up the largest economies within the continent – measured by gross domestic product (GDP).
Even with the billions/trillions of dollars they make (see the table below), a lot of these countries are still accumulating huge national debts and are heavily dependent on foreign aid from donor agencies. Yet, basic infrastructures such as good electricity, good road, affordable housing, etc. are hugely lacking. Note: the problem is not the accumulation of debt, but what these debts are used for: Are they used for building infrastructure or paying government salaries?
But the main point here is that many economists and commentators believe that overpopulation is a major factor obstructing economic growth in Africa. Economists have argued this since 1798: some believe population growth depresses standards of living because resources are scarce, while others don’t see much relationship between both. But, is population size bad for economic growth in Africa?
Our answer: Not really!
Take India, China, or even the United States of America for example -- they have a lot more people than any country in Africa, but their economies are doing are extremely well. Although India is the second most-populous nation in the world, only 21% of Indians live in abject poverty (that is, those that can’t afford to spend up to $1.90 or 700 naira daily). But for Nigeria, more than half of the population (54%) live in abject poverty. The more shocking one is China: it has seven times more people than Nigeria, but only 0.7% of Chinese are extremely poor.
At least, this suggests that population is not the chief “enemy of progress”. There are perhaps more important factors; such as having an appropriate and realistic development plan, implementing the plan well, and managing public money with discipline and integrity.
Here are some interesting data on India and some of the biggest African economies:
Still craving? You can read more on the topic on: IGS