In population economics, it is crucial to keep the birth rate and immigration in check. A close watch will guide the government to plan and manage resources. Population growth rate is the percentage rate of increase in an area in a given year. Population growth would increase human activities. It will increase the scramble for scarce resources.
At a fixed income level, households with two children, an additional child would reduce available resources per head. Quality of life or living standard will drop. However, if income level increases, more children would be a flyspeck. Nigeria’s population growth rate has surged to 3.2 percent per annum in 2023, according to the National Population Commission (NPC).
At a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 3.10 in 2022 and 2.3 percent in the first quarter of 2023, it implies our population is growing faster than the economy. For a nation with more than 40 percent of its population living in abject poverty and 133 million multi-dimensional poor, it is a significant source of worry.
The Nigerian land border remains porous to Chad, Niger, Cameroon and the Benin Republic; it signals that the population of Nigeria could surge further. With a population of over 220 million people, disaster looms for Nigeria.
Nigeria’s economic growth rate has averaged 1.4 percent in the last eight years; population growth averaged 2.5 percent within the same period. The population growth rate has nearly doubled the rate of growth of the economy. According to statistics, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, excluding Iceland (2.5), a small island and Canada (1.8), with an ageing population, none have a population growth rate of more than 1.1 percent.
China averaged 0 percent, India 0.7, Egypt 1.6, South Africa 0.8, Kenya and Ghana average 1.9, respectively. Nigeria is predicted to become the third most populated country in the world by 2050, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). At its present economic growth rate, it is scary. Population, especially if youthful (Between 15-45 years), could propel economic growth.
However, according to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s labour force is 80 million, of which 33.3 percent are unemployed. Despite having nearly 70 percent of Nigeria’s population below 45 years, only one in every four Nigerians is employed. These unemployment figures could worsen if foreign and domestic investments fail to improve.
Insecurity and climate change challenges along the Sub-Sahara have led to the migration of people across borders in search of safety, food and economic sustenance. These movements are not in check. A surge in internal population growth through birth is not the best for Nigeria.
Economic revenue remains low in a post-COVID-19 economy, faced with a drop in oil revenue, Russia-Ukraine War, a rising debt profile, low investment and other factors. The surge in population could provide human resources for terrorism in the face of rising poverty.
Further pressure on the scarce resource could result in an imbroglio. The economy may fail to absorb the population explosion, leading to disaster. Insecurity will surge. Hunger, poverty and unemployment could get worse. Economic depression will muddle in.
Nigeria needs urgent steps to arrest this embarrassing situation. Population growth rate needs to drop close to the world average of 0.8 percent per annum. An actionable and urgent population law is required; one woman to two children. Adopt less taxes, lower interest rates on borrowing, first-refusal to government opportunities and other incentives to enforce compliance.
Mass awareness of Nigerians on the dangers of explosions should kickstart. Nigeria’s government must take actionable steps to address low girl child education, poverty and youth unemployment, as it allows people to spend productive time on sex, leading to population growth. Investment in family health, especially family planning, must improve.
We must get the buy-in of religious leaders in Nigeria to lead the effort, as religion is one of Africa’s leading challenges to family planning. At a time when many countries, especially in Europe, are “rewarding” their citizens to produce more babies, Nigeria needs to reduce its population considering its current economic woes.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest population growth rate in the world. Nigeria must lead the fight against the “unproductive population” explosion.
Alikor is a development economist & an Oxford Foundry Fellow ([email protected])