The Demography of Africa

The Demography of Africa

The Demography of Africa

The Demography of Africa


Written lucidly and simply to serve as an introduction to the study of the African continent from a human population perspective, this book demonstrates important factors in the ebb and flow of group size and structure using the example of the fastest growing region in the world. From a total original population of less than a quarter million in prehistoric times to the present count of 642 million people in 1990, Africa is now demonstrating an annual growth rate of 3.0%, the highest on the planet. While the rest of the world's population is expected to increase by 60%, Africa's is expected to increase by 100%, doubling by the year 2025 to a projected total of 1.6 billion people. The major factor creating the high growth rate is the drop in death rates while the fertility rates remain high. Stress on the population has been related to urbanization which has increased since African countries attained independence in the 1960s. Employment opportunities in cities are inadequate and slum conditions have appeared around most major cities. Since agriculture remains the major industry and occupation, rural development policies are seen to hold the most promise for stemming urban migration and reducing famine and poverty.


Demography may be defined as the science of population. Demos is a Greek word meaning people and graphy refers to the writing, description, and representation in the field. The term demography was coined over a century ago (Guillard, 1855). The word population is much older and has a Latin derivative.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, during the days of Graunt, Petty, and Malthus, studies of births, deaths, and population growth were considered part of the discipline of political economy. Today, however, the study of human populations and their changing number and characteristics is considered to be a discipline in itself. Some scholars insist that demography is divided into two distinct branches: "formal" demography and "social" demography. In this context "formal" demography refers to mathematical analyses and model building.

Births, deaths, and migration, for example, are the three demographic variables that determine population growth. High fertility results in a young population and declining fertility increases the age of the population. Immigration and inmigration tend to lower the age of a population, while emigration and out- migration usually increase its age. Declining mortality usually results in a younger population. Thus, change in the age-sex composition of a population is a result of changes in fertility, the sex ratio at birth, mortality, and migration-- variables that can be quantified and measured. The age-sex structure of a population may be considered as a demographic history of individuals living at any one time.

Some important measures of demographic change are the crude birth and death rates, which taken together indicate population increase. For example, the crude birth rate of Africa (number of births per 1,000 population) was 44.7 in the . . .

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