AFRICA: Africa World Press Guide

compiled and edited by WorldViews

POPULATION
Questions about policies and programs

"Blaming global environmental degradation on population growth helps to lay the groundwork for top-down, demographically driven population policies and programs which are deeply disrespectful of women, particularly women of color and their children."
--African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, The Gambia

"There is a very high unmet need for family planning. The economic situation...has brought it home to our people that if they want their children to be educated and well-fed, then they have to begin to do something about children they are going to have ."
--Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, Former Minister of Health, Nigeria

"Of all the myths about Africa prevailing in the West, none is propagated with more vigor and regularity than the notion that overpopulation is a central cause of African poverty....Indeed, in many African regions the problem is underpopulation. "
--Djibril Diallo, chief spokesman, UN Office for Emergency Operations in Africa

Looking over the array of resource materials on the issue of population in Africa it seems, at times, that there is at least one glossy brochure, full-color demographic chart, or population journal for every woman, man, and child in Africa. The topic is well-studied and amply covered in print and audio_visual media. For all the available resources, however, there remain numerous contending points of view on the nature, timing, and relative importance of population-related programs . The quotations below represent just a sample of these divergent points of view.

Professor Aderanti Adepoju, a Nigerian economist and demographer, calls attention to "two broad points of view [that] have dominated the debate on the inter-relationship between population growth and economic development. "One school of thought," Adepo ju writes, "holds strongly that fertility rates--the key to slowing the rapid expansion of population--will normally decline only in response to enhanced living conditions, higher incomes, female education and modernization. That is, poverty has to be era dicated before a family-planning culture, in the modern sense, can take root. The other view holds that family planning can be effectively introduced irrespective of the level of development; what is needed is an adequate supply of the right methods, back ed by intensive awareness and motivational campaigns" (see "Africa's population crisis: Formulating effective policies," Africa Recovery Briefing Paper 3, April 1991, p. 4). The resource materials in this chapter speak to the theoretical and progra mmatic tug-of-war that Adepoju identifies. They also reflect a broader range of perspectives and issues that policy-makers, development workers, educators, and the general public have about Africa's "population crisis."

Setting the scene

A few general studies on world population (especially as it relates to the developing nations) set the scene for the focused look at population issues in Africa that follows below.

Full House: Reassessing the Earth's Population Carrying Capacity (Brown and Kane 1994) is a balanced and readable summary of the tensions between food production and population growth on a global level. A longer and more thorough analysis of the same topics is The Future Population of the World: What Can We Assume Today? (Lutz 1994), an Earthscan publication that includes projections specifically for the Africa region.

Other general studies include

In the revised edition of her 1987 classic study, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control (Hartmann 1995), population and development activist Betsy Hartmann makes the case that rapid population growth is a symp tom and not a cause of problematic economic and social development, that improvements in the status of women lead to voluntary decreases in family size, and that effective birth control services can only thrive within a comprehensive system of health care delivery that is responsive to people's needs.

Additional feminist criticisms of population programs and policies include

The latter contains case studies of population-related issues in Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, and Egypt, among other emerging nations. Two special issues of Hunger Notes, a quarterly newsletter published by World Hunger Education Ser vice (Washington, D.C.), offer a breadth of material on population and development issues in a handy format. The spring 1994 issue, entitled Population: Broadening the Debate, contains articles, graphic sidebar materials, and lists of resources tha t aim to set out the lines of debate regarding population and development. The summer 1994 issue, Population: The Special Case of Africa (Adepoju et al. 1994), offers a concise and readable presentation of the issues and debates relative to populat ion issues in Africa.

Other brief, well-designed, and accessible introductions to population-related topics are

Population programs in Africa

Ngozi Onwurah's video documentary, The Desired Number (Women Make Movies 1995) uses the Ibu Eze ceremony in Nigeria--Africa's most populous nation--to dramatically illustrate the complexities and difficulties that face family planning advocates as they confront on-the-ground realities in traditional societies in Africa and other regions of the developing world. The Ibu Eze ceremony honors and celebrates Nigerian women who have given birth to nine children. The deeply rooted traditional ceremony bri ngs tangible rewards to the honored woman's family and is perhaps the only recognition a rural woman will receive for her lifetime of labor.

Add to this the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria, the economic uncertainties of village life, and nationalist and anti-Western forces who denounce population programs as Western-inspired attempts to limit the growth of Nigerian familie s, and the logic of the question posed by this video is clear: Why would any woman not strive to have as many children as possible? The need to tackle population management issues in Africa is obvious, but the obstacles to the successful implementa tion of effective programs--as this documentary video makes clear--are numerous and complex.

Books that address population issues in Africa include

The Population Reference Bureau (Washington, D.C.) has published a number of booklets on this subject. See, for example,

The Information Project for Africa (Washington, D.C.) has taken a particularly strong interest in developing critical perspectives on population policies and programs in Africa. IPFA's strong point of view--expressed anonymously in the following titles --is evident in publications such as

IPFA's research coordinator, Elizabeth Liagin, is the author of the organization's most recent study, Excessive Force: Power, Politics and Population Control (Liagin 1996).

Reference Sources

Reference sources on population-related issues include

United Nations publications of note include

Population and Development: Directory of Non-Governmental Organisations in OECD Countries (OECD 1994) provides information on more than 700 NGOs active in the fields of population and development. The profiled organizations are based in member n ations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD membership includes Australia, the United States, Japan, Canada, and most European nations.

Numerous organizations publish journals and magazines on population issues. Chief among these periodicals are:


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