Africa: Using familiar language to manage surging population

World population is increasing at alarming rate, analysts have lots of different statistics to back this assumption up. The upward movement affects different parts of the world differently, for us in Nigeria it means surpassing US population in 2050 and by 2100 very close to 1 billion people.

According to  Population Reference Bureau, total fertility rates have declined in all regions of the world over the last four decades. 2013 world’s average number of child per woman is 2.5 as opposed to 4.4 in 1970, Africa is 4.7 as opposed to 6.7 in 1970.

In other words, Africans birth rate per woman is significantly higher than the rest of the world and the trend is assumed to continue.

For starters,  the poorer one is the more children they tend to have and vice versa – all factors considered.

Now, one may ask what part of the need for population control does my people don’t get – plenty. This is partly because the compelling needs for contraceptive/family planning have not been explained in the language people understood.

The more the merrier is still largely entertained. Or sometimes the need for particular gender get the best of common sense.

What don’t we get?

An uncle visited his niece a while ago. Getting there, he met her with a newborn. The excited uncle picked up the phone to congratulate his sister – niece’s mother. The sister was happy too, and then asks whose baby that was as between the family there are a few women of childbearing age.

“Your daughter, Mama Emmanuel” The uncle replied.

“O daa, e se o, adun a kari” – ‘Thank you, w’ll all have a cause to celebrate’ – Niece’s mother prayed.

The old lady was confused, she wondered what she must have done to her daughter that made her hid her pregnancy news. They’re close-knit family where two weeks was too long for not hearing from one another.

Mama Emmanuel hid the news from all her siblings too.

Why the secrecy?

The newborn was the fifth child – all blessings.  The newborn immediate older brother was nine years old while the first child of the family was 18years old at the time of her birth.

After the news broke to everyone, they all rejoiced and happy that the baby and mother are well.

Mama Emmanuel has done well for herself, she started family very young – had the last child at 38. She and husband own home and children are in a relatively good school.

Why was she so self cautious?

A few weeks after the birth story, I spoke to the newborn’s sister to see how she’s getting on – she loved her baby sister but could not believe her mother would get pregnant again given how hard she had to work in order to contribute her share of keeping the family afloat.

“Promise you wouldn’t tell Maami” she pleaded. – suspecting a good gossip so promised. Her mother had difficult time given birth, she had intended to give birth at home but had to be rushed to a nearby clinic. Baby came and was well.

During the discharge checks, the doctor on duty asked if Mama Emmanuel knew about family planning, before she could talk, the doctor said “because if you don’t, we have a unit here” in a condescending tone that saddened her afterwards.

While I understand the doctor’s attitude, I really do not agree with him insulting a new mother to get the message across, Nigeria need professionals who can deliver without belittling people.

The way we understand the effect of population increase differs greatly in Nigeria – this cuts across board.  Sometimes, it was like beating a dead horse trying to explain connection between increasing population and poverty rate, let alone environmental consequences.

According to PRB: contraceptive usage among Nigerian women in relation to other women around the world is not surprising. 15%  of Nigerians while the rest of the world is 63% – this was 2014 data.

Change is hard, and I don’t blame Mama Emmanuel’s doctor for being insensitive, this is Nigeria where we often forget how connected we all are.

How about if Nigeria imitate Mechai Viravaidya’s strategy of aggressively educating the population and making contraceptives available everywhere and anywhere? And in the process reduce poverty?


15 thoughts on “Africa: Using familiar language to manage surging population

  1. Hi FK
    I came across this article, that addresses the need for the government and successive governments to manage the swelling population, and the consequences if the whole thing is messed up. In my opinion, I’d say the jury is out, but going by past efforts at proper social management, I can’t say that Nigeria “will pull it off” like China.
    Here is the article

    People should not be deceived that Nigeria is a ‘big country’. Compared to many other countries it is quite small and to be holding such a large population requires careful management, which Nigerians are not skilled at.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank for the link.

      The points about investing in children is spot on by how is Nigeria going to make it when more than hal of these children are neglected in rural areas?

      Agree, that Nigeria has enough means to create an inclusive society but are we going to be honest and act on this now? Hopefully.


      1. Did you read the part where it says
        ” Moreover, two out of three Nigerians will live in an urban centre” (by the year 2050, basically in your lifetime)

        One doesn’t dare to think of what the urban centres will be turned into.

        The Nigerian government have been slack or outright dismissive when it comes to population planning. So I fail to see why they will suddenly wake up and take effective action. The president has 10 children, what kind of example is that? Failure to tackle this will result in the ‘basic needs’ of the masses remaining unfulfilled, which doesn’t bode for a bright future.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, I did actually and it is a fair prediction. Rural people are usually neglected and the last to see any development so the trend for youths has always been to escape to the city.

          Movement to the urban areas used to be among the educated with white collar jobs, but this has changed long time ago, everyone with different skills/ none at all are moving now just as I did even with secondary school diploma.


  2. High pregnancy rates and Poverty definitely go hand-in-hand 😦 The better off have work, can enjoy hobbies and entertainment which keeps them busy. For those on the breadline the only entertainment is… well, I’ll leave that to your imagination. It has reached the stage in wealthy European nations that poverty can be defined by whether a family can afford a TV and the license to watch 😦 Whilst every child should be a blessing for it’s parents sadly, too often, they weren’t wanted and place an increasing burden on families in poverty already. God only knows what the solution is.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s making the Strategy work that is the problem 😦 It’s so difficult to explain to people where life expectancy is short that they shouldn’t reproduce more – Nature says ‘you die soon so reproduce now’ 😦 I think that highlighting the issues is a very good thing and I wish you good fortune in achieving change! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. FK, I heard that statistic about the population growth. There was another one, where by 2050, India will add nearly 300 million people to it’s cities, China is next with little over 200 million and Nigeria was next with nearly 200 million people. To my mind that spells disaster (Nigeria is nowhere near the size or wealth of India or China, so they should not be rushing to rival them in population size), 2050 is not so far away.
    Most Nigerians I have spoken to, have an odd point of view, ranging from quoting the Bible as their get out clause for not practising family planning. Others think it’s the way to become wealthy and powerful. Nigeria is not 1/10th the size of the United States (yet the way Nigerians talk, you’d think Nigeria was the size of Russia). So where is the sense surpassing the US in terms of population
    Others view it as a political race, as the larger the ethnic group the more they can claim.
    I see in Kano, they even avoid polio vaccination because some mindless clerics say it is a plot to curb their numbers.
    It seems to me people in Nigeria are clasping at all sorts of questionable and dubious reasons to populate themselves to death. How is it in most other parts of the world, people have come to the conclusion that managed population growth is better than unmanaged population growth? What do Nigerians know that the rest of the world has not figured out on this issue? When I ask Nigerians this, they can’t answer. They say it’s because they have a high libido… whatever. I don’t think so.
    To make matters worse Nigeria is in a region where the effects of climate change will be very pronounced, people are already butchering one another over land rites. Soon water will be an issue, and that has never been properly managed in Nigeria.
    Education is the key, but from what I can see people there are impervious to such a message (the educated included). The government doesn’t help matters by pushing “giant of Africa myth”. This may sound nice, but when properly scrutinised, we can see that bigger (as in population size) doesn’t mean better. I think a complete rethink on the population issue needs to adopted and that serious people with measures that go beyond the superficial should be adopted. Otherwise the future will be a very bleak one indeed.
    A future where cities looking like this need to be avoided.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve said it all.

      How I wish religion reference can be avoided when we talk about serious social issues such as the population increase, the truth is, it can not and you see the bible reference is the same wherever you see Nigerians/ selected Africans cluttered.

      We tend to avoid the hard truth, we all see the result.

      Population increase to become wealthy and powerful? – Yea, right. That will all work out so well especially with unskilled population…

      As for the high libido – that’s new to me. Great to know though at least they can capitalise on that…

      Where do we start? Incredible how good people can be misled when cycle of bad leaders rule the land.


      1. The high libido one, I encountered when I asked young to middle-aged men, they scoff and laugh, saying they have “what others don’t”. That is news to me.

        If the religious issue can’t be tackled or at least brought on board, Nigeria will go the way of Afghanistan and the like, rooted in darkness and forever embedded in backwardness despite all the benefits of education and technology. The only time they will adopt it, is to kill one another and failing that anyone else they choose to.

        This whole population issue hits at many core pillars that keep Nigeria the way it is blind religious observance, women empowerment (ie reproductive issues), government’s rsponsibility to it’s citizens and visa versa all of which are uncomfortable topics for Nigerians.

        The only African countries that are facing serious population issue currently are Nigeria, Egypt and Rwanda. Egypt due to it’s peculiar georgraphy everyone lives close to one river or by the coast. Rwanda due to it’s comparatively small size (though still bigger than Lagos state with about half the population, we have seen the problems they are having there) and of course our very own Nigeria, where no action is being taken.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I actually have more hope in Egypt than Nigeria, although the country is still finding its feet with all the political/social issues, but that will end. Already new city is being constructed to give more room in Cairo. Also, the established tourism is a big advantage and it will bounce back once all the ‘wahala’ die down.

          Ha, on having “what others don’t” – I know that one, it’s called No common sense. 🙂

          Where else can you see the number of religious centres outnumbered schools both home and wherever we settled outside?


          1. Ekaaro FK, (se dada lo ji) – from my classroom Yoruba.
            I think what you said about Egypt is pretty sad regarding Nigeria. Egypt actually has a greater land mass than Nigeria, but (as you know it is mainly desert. To my mind the government took the easy option of building another city on their scarce (valuable) agricultural land. They could have built more coastal towns/cities and even a few in the desert to harness the acquife and emulate the Israelis who have colonised the Negev desert.
            Somehow with all the social strife occuring there and the lack of democracy, you have faith Egypt will overcome, I think they probably will. They have backers (the Gulf States) and are willing to take decisive action (no matter how bloody, no matter what the political consequences are). They have a competent military.
            So you don’t think Nigerians will wake up and “smell the coffee” so to speak? This is terrible, already Nigerians have settled in many African countries from Senegal to Sudan and beyond. Now they will be seeking to relocate because of their stubborness to see reason on this issue. They will be viewed as a people fleeing their home.
            Why do you arrive at that conclusion FK, you are an eternal optimist. how come? Is Nigeria doomed like the cow being led to market?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Ha ha, you are making real effort here, keep it up o! Daada la ji o. E se. Se e ri solar eclipse laaro yii?

              Your second paragraph sums it all up – Egypt is facing its challenges head on. Lots of people are dying everyday and yet they are not backing down – for the most part there is collective voice especially among those whose life depended on better future – youths.

              In Nigeria, we proclaimed peaceful co-existence but reality on ground is far from that. Most people have been feeling the pinch of corrupt government for a long time, yet we have not done anything about it unless when international bodies helped. Soyinka gave a long speech on the need to respond to Boko Haram with bigger intensity, Presido’s response was handling the case with ‘kids’ gloves’ and pilgrim wastage fund.

              We are passive aggressive and loved to take the high road when following persistently of laid down strategy would have been sufficient – hence ‘that’ happened to Sani Abacha.

              I think 28th will come and go and whatever happens will have influence on how quick our recovery will be.
              Still optimistic o.


              1. I’m learning little bits of Yoruba. Mi o ri eclipse laaro yii.

                I think the key difference as you rightly pointed out, between Egypt and Nigeria, is that there is no shortage of strong men willing to grab power and forcibly pull their country back from the abyss. In Nigeria, by contrast the leadership are content to let the country ‘go to the dogs’, as long as they have their life jacket (so that they can enjoy ‘the spoils of office’), they aren’t bothered, and it appears the public are oblivious to this threat. Instead they hold out the hope that their turn will come to do the same. The key factor people haven’t taken into account, is that time , resources and opportunities are limited.

                Soyinka, is an upright man, but alas his words are falling on ‘deaf ears’.

                The only positive part of your response were the last two sentences. What a relief, if you say things are bleak, then we know that is no bs (b***s***t)!

                Liked by 1 person

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