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Nigeria will be at the forefront of population growth in Africa

Out of 31 countries where the average woman has more than five children, 29 are in Africa.

With many African countries set for significant increases in population, figures from the United Nations’ population division predict that the continent will be at the forefront of population growth over the next one hundred years. The UN report – ‘World population prospects: the 2012 revision’ – forecasts that the world’s population could rise from 7.2 billion today to 8.1 billion in 2025, 9.5 billion in 2050 and nearly 11 billion by 2100.

More than half of the current predicted growth to 2050 is expected to stem from Africa, where the population may double from 1.1 to 2.4 billion. Nations with high fertility rates will be a major factor in this growth, particularly Nigeria, the country with the largest population on the continent at around 170 million in 2013. With the average woman in Nigeria having at least 5 children, its population is expected to be larger than that of the USA by 2050.

The report’s authors say that such forecasts (as well as indicators for other parts of the world, such as rising numbers of old people in Europe) should act as a ‘wake-up’ call. For example, in Africa, the predictions show the urgency of employment creation for the growing younger generation and boosting agriculture. Even assuming the average number of children per woman declines in countries like Nigeria, population rises will still be significant and put an even greater strain on food and water resources.

With nutrition issues currently high on the agenda of leaders, the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) has reiterated the importance of gender equality and empowering women and girls as a key to nutrition concerns. In a recent article for the Guardian, the president of the ICRW highlights the central position of women in alleviating hunger and malnutrition, since women are primarily responsible for feeding families. Many women in Africa are also food growers. In the article, the ICRW highlights the vital goal of ending violence against girls and women and the need for a standalone goal on gender equality in any post-2015 development framework.

As well as involving issues about human rights, wellbeing and happiness, violence against women crucially affects their ability to provide food for their families. And practices such as child marriage hinder a woman’s ability to lead a productive life where she can feed and support her children. There is therefore a strong case that solutions to food security and nutrition (as well as to over-population) will only be successfully tackled when women are put at the centre of development.

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Food security is threatened in Nigeria by spiralling population growth. Find out how you can help families and children in Nigeria...