Like many Nigerians, hitting up the Nigerian newspapers websites daily for news updates is like a daily dose of depression and anger combined. All major news in Nigeria will predictably fit into any one of three categories: brazen primitive politics (often with no clear policy direction or ideological conviction, but with the twin aim of acquiring power and wealth), corruption (often of the most primitive types with no fear of accountability), and destruction (needless violence and deaths from road and fire accidents, diseases, buildings collapse, and robbery attacks). Yet as bad as things are, there’s a gathering storm that threatens to sweep away whatever may be left of our children’s future. It’s hard to imagine but if we don’t control Nigeria’s growing population problem, there’s a very good chance that our children will look back at the current times (yes, as bad as they are) with nostalgia, as Nigeria’s golden age!
While growing population is clearly a global issue, and a high population by itself is not necessarily deleterious to any country, Nigeria’s peculiar population growth is significantly out of sync with all other economic and national growth indices. To put this problem in perspective, let’s consider some hard data: Nigeria is the 32nd largest country in the world in terms of area (923,768 sq km) but is the 8th most populous (158,259,000). In Africa, Nigeria ranks 14th in area, ranked 18th in nominal GDP (2008), but ranks 1st in population! According to the United Nation’s World Population Prospects (2008 Revision Population Database), Nigeria’s population in 1950 was 36,680,000. In 2010 Nigeria’s population is estimated at 158,259,000 and is projected to be between 254,000,000 (low variant) and 326,000,000 (high variant) in 2050! The most realistic, not by any means less shocking, estimate of Nigeria’s population in 2050 is 289,000,000 (medium variant). The low, medium, and high projection variants are based on fertility rates in the different countries, among other assumptions. West and east African countries including Nigeria generally have the highest fertility rates in the world, with 4 to 7 children born per woman in her child bearing years. The fertility rate in Nigeria between 1950 and 2010 has been 5 to 6 children per woman, and all three projections variants assumes that the rate will tend to slow down to between 2 to 3 children per woman in 2050. Very optimistic assumption if you ask me, considering we have not slowed down that significantly in 60 years (1950 – 2010). So, without any intervention in the status quo, Nigeria is heading towards a population blowout with the current reproduction rates.
Let’s consider two countries that are most comparable to Nigeria in area: Tanzania (945,087 sq km) and Venezuela (912,050 sq km). Tanzania’s estimated population for 2010 is 45,040,000, and will have an estimated population of 109,450,000 in 2050 (medium projection). Venezuela’s estimated population for 2010 is 29,044,000, and will have an estimated population of 42,042,000 in 2050 (medium variant). While Tanzania’s reproduction rate is comparable to Nigeria’s, its population density in 2050 is projected to still be significantly less than Nigeria’s current population density in 2010. Venezuela’s will be way less! Nigeria on the other hand will probably have about the current population of the United States cramped on a land about twice the size of California.
Most estimates suggested that the world will have at least 2 billion more inhabitants in 2050 (approximately 9 billion people) than there are currently (approximately 7 billion in 2010/2011). The impact is likely to be more local than global, especially in countries where the growth rate is surging too far ahead of real development. God did not give us the smarts so we can just sit around, fold our hands and do nothing, and then expect that things will just work out somehow. In anticipation of a future scramble, China is acquiring resource based assets all over the world to power its economy into the future; UAE is investing petro-dollars in infrastructure, tourism and technology thereby laying the foundation for its post-oil future. The United States and some European countries are investing in green technology and alternative energy to ensure their economic dominance into the near future and to ensure that tomorrow’s jobs are created and sustained in their domain. The leaders of Nigeria, the most populous African country (by far) are dragging their oil-soaked feet and have no plan beyond winning the next election by any means possible. They mostly aspire to acquire political power just for the sake of it, and to control all the resources of the state to the benefit of their friends and family. Those with some decent intentions lack the management and political skills to bring about any lasting change.