Niger has the world’s highest birth rate – and that may be a problem

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While fertility levels have declined rapidly in most parts of the world, many countries in the sub-Saharan African region of the Sahel have seen their reproductive rates go down very slowly, and only very slightly.

The average woman in Niger, for example, still has 7.2 children, according to the Population Reference Bureau 2018 World Population Data Sheet. The average in developing countries is 2.6 children per woman.

With an annual growth rate of 3.8 percent, the world’s highest, Niger could see its population of 22.2 million nearly triple, to 63.1 million, by 2050. Half of all Nigeriens are under the age of 15 – a higher proportion than any other country.

Neighboring Nigeria and Mali have a youthful age structure similar to Niger’s.

As a demographer, I am concerned by the situation in the Sahel region. I have studied sub-Saharan Africa’s population growth for decades, both at the World Bank and as an academic, and I have learned that a surplus of young people can predict social unrest.

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