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Nigeria’s Population Challenges

April 14, 2012

Nigeria, with a population of 167 million people, is the world’s sixth most populous country and is already experiencing the effects of rapid population growth, reports the New York Times. Continued growth may soon present a demographic crisis. The country’s urban unemployment rate for young adults aged 15-24 is almost 50 percent and such high unemployment is fueling a number of social and political problems, including urban overcrowding, crime, radicalization, and illegal immigration (to the US and elsewhere).

“Population is key,” said Peter Ogunjuyigbe, a demographer at Obafemi Awolowo University in the small central city of Ile-Ife. “If you don’t take care of population, schools can’t cope, hospitals can’t cope, there’s not enough housing — there’s nothing you can do to have economic development.”

As we have already seen in Latin America, Asia, and North Africa, reducing birth rates will alleviate these problems and bring economic benefits. Nigeria’s goverment is trying to manage population growth by promoting contraceptive use and limiting family size, but there are many obstacles, including religion, as devote Roman Catholics and Muslims have opposed contraceptive use.

Culture has posed another hurdle:

Large families signal propserity and importance in African cultures; some cultures let women attend village meetings only after they have had their 11th child. And a history of high infant mortality, since improved thanks to interventions like vaccination, makes families reluctant to have fewer children.

Read more about the causes and consequences of Nigeria’s population boom in the New York Times article. You can also view a slideshow illustrating Nigeria’s population problems here. You can view population projections and fertility rate trends by region here.

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