Seventh in a series of
The Devils' Annexe
Africa – The Misunderstood Continent
Can Africa Survive?
Sidney & Shirley Robbins
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'Today’s baby boom in sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s poorest region, could sap tomorrow’s development. Rapid population growth impedes sub-Saharan
Africa’s progress toward virtually all its major goals,’ the World Bank said, in a review of the region between the Sahara and South Africa.
The scourge of modern Africa is the zealous propensity to breed. Fertility and its related curse, tribalism, is the time bomb that is set to explode. It simply means that this arid continent is running out of the resources to sustain an annual population growth, faster than any major region has ever experienced over a sustained period.
Africa – The Misunderstood Continent
The 1960’s were marked by the great hope that Africa was at the start of an irreversible process of development. But instead it has become the age of disenchantment. Development in most of Africa is at a standstill, and instead of progress, Africa is bankrupt, soaked in blood, crime and corruption.
Most of the wars and conflicts that have ceaselessly impoverished Africa have passed from tribal conflicts to ideological wars. Between 1990 and 2005, conflict has cost African development an estimated US $300 billion.
Many of these wars were fuelled by the East versus West conflict; to geopolitical stakes; and by powerful interest groups fighting for the strategic economic resources of Africa.
These resources are oil, timber, diamonds, gold, cobalt, coltan and other minerals. The wars are waged by the new socio-political systems where the ruling class manipulates the tribal ethnicity as part of their stock in trade to remain in power. Interests in the West become embroiled in the constant round of horse-trading and the picture becomes more and more clouded – and there seems little hope for better things.
Can Africa survive the 21st Century?
The burning question which concerns many is: will Africa's flagship nation, South Africa, become a Zimbabwe with its economy and laws run aground by a 'big man' leader? That's the question being asked in the wake of a political upset there. Also relevant are parallels to a deeply divided Kenya, where ethnic violence has erupted over a contested election.
The Curse of Africa - Over-population
Now for the one subject which no one dares mention. 'Population explosion in Africa.'
Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, wrote a book in 1922 titled 'The Cruelty of Charity.' Charity toward the poor, especially toward poor immigrants, she reckoned, only 'encourages the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others, which brings with it … a dead weight of human waste.'
In 1951 at the national congress of the Demographic Association of Southern Africa, economist and demographer Professor Jan Sadie delivered a paper in which he warned of a looming population explosion that would have disastrous consequences for the nation. He said that during the rest of the century, the number of new jobs created would be sufficient to cover only one year's increase in the labour force.
The prognosis was that fertility and its related curse, tribalism, was the time bomb that is set to explode. Having the fastest-growing population in the world, simply means that this arid continent is running out of the resources to sustain an annual population growth 'faster than any major region has ever experienced over a sustained period', according to the World Bank.
Let us spell this out in stark terms: Assuming a country has 20 million inhabitants, in 20 to 25 years this doubles to 40 million and after another 20 - 25 years this doubles to 80 million, then 160 million and so on.
Africa and its Food Production
Demographically, Africa remains a sparsely populated continent. The land mass covers about one-fifth of the world’s surface, yet it probably contains little more than one-tenth of the world’s population.
On the average, one square kilometre of arable land may have to support 2 people or more, compared to 290 or more in Europe.
If one takes the average growth in agricultural production over the last twenty years in the six most populous African countries, and triples it over the next twenty years on account of new technologies, one will still have many people languishing in a sickening swamp of malnutrition and near starvation. If food production was, by some miracle, to be accelerated, it still could not keep up with the population growth in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2000 it was already down 15 per cent per capita compared to 1997, and with no improvement by 2008, whereas China and India have moved to self-sufficiency in food. Asia has 329 million acres of irrigated land. Africa has 20 million acres, of which one-third is in Egypt.
We are fed with statistical surveys about economic growth in some African countries and the sound climate for economic development. This reads well in an economic journal, but we are never told that this affects only the tip of the economic pyramid while the vast masses continue to languish in poverty.
Is the Desert Encroaching?
Reports on the impact of global warming in Africa casts a gloomy cloud over a continent that is already a victim of environmental degradation. According to researchers, Rwanda, Burundi, southern Niger, Chad and Ethiopia are all likely to be the major losers.
A new study states that global warming threatens to stir up southern Africa's enormous dune fields, (National Geographic News - June 2005)
Scientists warn that the Kalahari dune fields, which are presently stable and covered by a degree of vegetation, will undergo widespread reactivation this century as a result of declining rainfall, increasing droughts, and rising wind strengths.
'This could have major consequences for several states and for the people who farm the land in these areas,' said David Thomas, a physical geographer at Oxford University in England. Thomas led the study, which was published in the academic journal Nature, June 2005.
Climate change is certain, and losses from extreme weather conditions could exceed US$1 trillion in a single year by 2040. Climate change could force up to 75% of bird species in some areas into extinction. (Cape Times 16 November 2006.)
Less than seven percent of Africa’s surface is covered with tropical rain forest, and the majority of this is concentrated in the centre of the continent. Today, most of Africa’s remaining frontier forests are at risk. Except for the Congo Basin, Africa’s frontier forests have largely been destroyed; primarily by loggers, and by peasant farmers clearing land for agriculture. In West Africa, nearly 90 percent of the original equatorial forest is gone, and what remains is heavily fragmented and degraded. Today, unspoiled forests in West Africa are restricted to one patch in Côte d’Ivoire, and another along the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. And how long before these fall to the needs of burgeoning populations?