African Demographic Trends and European Policy Responses

The Demographic Transition, which started in Europe in the late 18th century, had a huge positive impact on average human welfare. Population levels and growth rates became dependent upon societal preferences rather than upon famine and disease. The demographic transition has now spread around the world to all continents, except Africa. Surprisingly, Africa has not made the switch. Rather than seeing population growth easing and then stopping, in a typical post-demographic transition pattern, African population growth rates have stayed at a very high rate for many decades. Even in recent years, while many demographers expected a slowdown finally to take hold, African population levels have rocketed up. So for example, from the National Geographic:

“The experience in Asia and Latin America, says Pison, led demographers to expect a similarly rapid transition in Africa. Now they’ve been surprised again—unpleasantly this time. Over the past decade or two, it has become clear that fertility is falling much more slowly in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa than it did on other continents. That realization has come gradually because vital statistics in Africa are so poor. As new data come in, researchers revise their estimates not only of the future, but also of the recent past.”

There have now been over fifty years of high population growth rates in Africa and, with demographic momentum playing its part, there is a continuing exponential growth forecast for the next several decades. See the graph here for a long-run comparison of European and African population levels; see here for detailed analysis of worldwide population trends. The very long-run forecast (assuming a demographic transition eventually occurs in Africa) is that the population of Africa will be five and a half times the population of Europe. Nigeria alone is forecast to have a population 36% larger than all of Europe (914 million vs. 670 million). The conventional view of the two continents from the 1950s, of a large European population and small African population, is out of date; Africa is already much more populous than Europe and the gap is growing quickly.

Long-running and continuing high population growth in Africa is an important consideration in many European policy discussions. For example, the Irish Navy vessel L.E. Eithne is engaged in an EU-sponsored mission rescuing sea-bound African migrants from off the coast of Libya and transporting them to safe haven in Italy. This Mediterranean maritime crisis is variously ascribed to Middle Eastern political turmoil, or civil unrest in Libya, or weaknesses in southern Mediterranean maritime safety standards. The crisis is not fundamentally caused by any of these: it is fundamentally caused by population pressures in Africa. L.E. Eithne’s de facto mission objective is about providing transport out of Africa as much or more than it is about providing sea rescue.

African population pressures are the underlying fundamental cause of the Mediterranean maritime emergency. This impacts the evaluation of the likelihood of success for the L.E. Eithne rescue-and-transport mission. The mission is described as short-term, but the population pressures causing it will increase next year, and for the foreseeable future.

In my opinion (others may disagree) European resettlement of African migrants does not provide a viable solution to Africa’s demographic problem. The magnitudes simply do not add up. There needs to be an African solution to an African problem, but with an enormous increase in European aid, and an acknowledgement of the underlying demographic causes.

29 replies on “African Demographic Trends and European Policy Responses”

I think you make a good argument, based on the population numbers. Unless the root cause of poor economic, social and political conditions is tackled at source, the humanitarian disaster will worsen with the Mediterranean countries being unable to cope, either economically or in terms of social integration.
However, I would caution about expecting anything positive from a Europe that is increasing focused on its own increasingly selfish, narrow myopic economic issues.

[One small point re the ship, Le Eithne as it is now commonly referred to, and is a more utilitarian name for the vessel.
The naval service gives the name as L.É. Eithne which is presumably Irish and possibly translates as follows;
L= Long = Ship.
É= Éireann= Ireland
Eithne being the “The ship is named after Eithne, a tragic heroine and the daughter of the one-eyed Fomorian King, Balor in an early Irish romantic tale” according to wikipedia which gets the incorrect version of the name calling it the LÉ Eithne, without the stop.

Other Irish naval vessels begin with L.É. so I am guessing the translation.

Either way the officers and men are to be congratulated for their work, but the points you raise are very valid, and should be debated in a mature responsible social fashion that takes full account of the humanitarian issues in both Africa and indeed Europe.

@Joseph Ryan – Thanks for the correction I have changed it now. I still did not add the fada since my HTML coding ability is as nonexistent as my Irish.

There may be an ‘African problem’, but there is certainly also a ‘European problem’.

The only possible conclusion from reading these figures is that Europe is finished.

Its demographics have collapsed and it has entered a spiral of decline. The current economic crisis and stagnation in Europe is only a very mild foretaste of what is to come. The Europe of the past 2,000 years is in the process of ceasing to be.

The figures given in Gregory Connor’s link show the following:

In 1950, Europe accounted for 22 per cent of the world’s population.

Today, its 11 per cent.

And, by the end of the century it will be under 6 per cent.

And, why should it stop there?

The figures only go to 2100. I see no reason why Europe’s collapsing share of the world population should not continue to fall beyond 2100.

So, its goodbye to the Europe of the past 2,000 years. The Europe that was foremost in the the world in religion, literature, art and science, By 2100 Europe will be a peripheral rump, counting for nothing in global terms. On a more trivial note, it will be goodbye to the Europe that dominated the Olympics and the World Cup. No longer will these events be held in Europe every second time around. If Europe’s population is under 6 per cent by the end of the century, as the figures indicate, then once every 68 years is the most that can be expected.

But, its even worse than that.

The end-century European population will be geriatric. The proportion of the population aged 65 plus will have risen from about 20 per today to about 40 per cent by 2010. The proportion of the population aged under 65 will have fallen from about 80 per today to about 60 per cent by 2010. That’s 60 per cent of a much smaller population. By 2010 the non-geriatric population of Europe will be little more than half what it is today.

But, its even worse than that.

Of the 60 per cent under 65 by 2010, approximately one-half will not be European at all, but of African, Middle-Eastern and Indian subcontinent descent.

Europe’s demographic collapse is most advanced in southern and eastern Europe.

The populations of Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and the ex-communist Balkan and Baltic countries are forecast to fall by around 50 per cent between 2000 and 2100.

In contrast, the population of adjoining muslim Turkey is forecast to rise from around 60 million in 2000 to around 100 million in 2100. Likewise with all the other muslim Middle-East countries and the Indian subcontinent countries.

One doesn’t have to be Einstein to work out the likely consequences of this. The overwhelming probability is that Turkey and the neighbouring muslim countries will, not for the first time, seek their ‘Lebensarum’ in south-east Europe. This time around, they should have no difficulty getitng beyond the ‘Gates of Vienna’. Asia will simply move into south-east Europe and Africa will move into Mediterraenean Europe.

The situation in north-west Europe is not yet as bad, but is following the same trajectory. By 2010, many of the largest cities of north-western Europe will have populations, the majority of whose members will be of African, Middle-Eastern or Indian subcontinent descent. London is already well on its way to being Londonistan.

We certainly should not blame individuals from Africa, the Middle-East or the Indian subcontinent for this state of affairs. Its simply Darwinism in action. Survival of the fittest. If one ethnic group (i.e. Europeans of Caucasian descent) loses the will to reproduce, then it gets bundled aside by other ethnic groups that have no such inhibition. C’est La Vie.

Europe’s demographic demise is the direct result of its takeover by militant anti-religion anti-tradition secularism. Through its destruction of the traditional family, its introduction of industrial abortion, and its obsessive belief that instant gratification of every desire is the primary social objective, militant anti-religion anti-tradition secularism has brought Europe’s fertility rate to levels never before seen and to levels that inevitably lead to the population consequences described above. Under Christianity, Europe flourished and was the dominant force in the world for 2,000 years. Under its successors, hedonistic liberalism and militant anti-religion secularism, Europe is on its way to the dustbin of history within a century.

Up to now, the only European country that has bucked this trend to any extent has been Ireland. But, for how much longer? As the visit of the Amnesty International chief last week showed, there is now a concerted campaign to bring Ireland into line with the demographically-collapsing rest of Europe. Only time will tell if it succeeds.

@ JtO: And, why should it stop there?

I can think of a few reasons. But some other time. Land (they do not make any more of it anymore) has a finite ‘carrying capacity’. Nature rules, not man. Our fantastic technologies are all based on the Laws of Nature. Limits, dear boy, limits!

Could polygamy be the reason the demographic estimates are always too low?

African economies are probably improving just enough to enable Africans to afford the cost to migrate, but enough to keep them in Africa.

Polygamy might contribute to the pressure to immigrate to Europe.

And I would add:

Gregory Connor’s desire, however worthy, of the situation being transformed by ‘an enormous increase in European aid to Africa’ has zero chance of coming about.

If Europe couldn’t transform economic conditions in Africa when its population was twice that of Africa, how can it possibly do so when its population is half that of Africa (as it soon will be) or one sixth that of Africa (as it will be later this century)? Only Africans themselves can transform economic conditions in Africa. They need to choose which route to go down to achieve this, the ‘North Korean’ route or the ‘South Korean’ route. Fortunately, there have been some tentative indications in recent years that they are beginning to choose the latter.

The reality is that the demographic pressures in Europe (that I referred to in my post) are likely to result in an enormous decrease in European aid to Africa. Finland has just cut its foreign aid budget by 43 per cent. Finland can get away with this as its a Nordic country and therefore immune from criticism from Ireland’s braindead commentariat. But, imagine the reaction from that commentariat if an FF government had cut Ireland’s foreign aid budget by 43 per cent.

Oops, I made some typos in my long post. As should be obvious from the context, I typed 2010 in a few places instead of 2100.

@ Brian Woods Snr,

Check out the population of Hong Kong vrs the land area.

@ JTO,

Prophetic words indeed…excellent post. The anti God, anti family and anti child policies along with political correctness of post war liberal Europe will be it’s undoing.

Charlemange must be turning in his grave!

But all hope is not lost… Other civilisations such as ancient Persia etc did have advanced forms of mathematics (for their time)… so after Europe has been assimilated civilisation will continue in some form.

It will be a “different form of civilisation Jim… but not as we know it”


“imagine the reaction from that commentariat if an FF government had cut Ireland’s foreign aid budget by 43 per cent.”

Ireland’s ODA fell from €921m in 2008, to €619 in 2013, a fall of 33%. I believe it may have fallen further last year.


The fall in the birth rate is hardly a result of secularism, it’s a result of education. It’s just that secularism is a result of education too.

Women get educated. They get careers. Which take time to develop and maintain. So they delay child birth and have fewer or no children.

Educated people are generally harder to convince that the world was made in 7 days. Incidentally, in my experience they generally don’t need the threat of final day judgement to want to lead a good life.

Africa being the poorest educated of all continents is merely a generation or two behind. Though a generation or two of high birth rates has of course a massive effect on populations.

@ That’s Legal

You hit the nail on the head there!

The future, as far as Europe is concerned, is already here.

The problem is not Africa but the inter-generational conflict in Europe itself.

What is striking about the the most recent statements from the hard left in Greece on the question of pension reform is their sheer childishness. Pensions have to be paid for. As Europe is currently organised, this must be done at the level of the national sovereign state.

At least the Greek system, now failing, recognised that pensions have to be funded. Not so in Ireland as far as the public sector is concerned.

“It will be all right on the night”, to coin a phrase, risks disappointing quite a few. Ask the former staff of Clery’s!

@That’s Legal

Even if what you say was true, it wouldn’t alter the statistics I gave or alter the fact that Europe is in demographic collapse. It would just mean the reason was different. The reality is that when a country’s fertility rate falls to under 1.5 (which is now the case with most European countries), that country is on the road to extinction. The reason for it falling so low doesn’t alter that fact.

But, what you say doesn’t explain the difference in fertility between countries of similar education levels.

For example:

The U. States is suffering far less than Europe. According to the figures in Gregory Connor’s link the population of the U. States will rise by around 50 per cent by 2100, while that of Europe plummets. The U. States is at least as well educated as Europe, the main cultural difference between the U. States and Europe being that the U. States has in recent decades been much more religious. Obviously this is starting to change under the wretched Obama and may change even more if Americans are mad enough to elect Hilary Clinton as President.

Another example:

Ireland’s fertility rate is close to 2.0 while Germany’s is 1.4. Different education levels don’t explain that, as Ireland is at least as educated as Germany.

What’s interesting is that the countries not in total demographic collapse (U. States, Ireland) are the ones being pilloried by global liberalism to change their ways, while those that are in demographic collapse are being held up as models to be followed.


I don’t dispute the statistics or the problem. I dispute the reason. As regards the US I think you’ll find the birth rate has collapsed among white Americans. The main reason it holds up on average is the Hispanic population, which is of course far less educated and poorer. In 2010 Hispanic fertility rate in the US was 2.4 where as whites was 1.8.

The broad trend toward lower fertility is education, there are of course cultural difference between countries that matter too. For example I’ve a few Italian friends that cite Italy’s misogynistic culture as a reason women have fewer or no children i.e. They’ll have little help taking care of him/her/them.

France isn’t doing too bad relatively, with a fertility rate of 2 and I’m sure you would described it as a bastion of liberalism.


Just because Europe’s population seem to have realised that the human population explosion cannot continue without significant consequences you try to paint them as backward. Far from it they are leading from the front and it is related to the large proportion of Europeans being educated and secular.
The only answer to continued overpopulation in Africa is through education. Some Chinese style government policy wouldnt hurt either.

Less aid in Africa needs to be spent on food and more on books and classrooms.

If the whole world kept breeding like rabits as the Church would have us do it leads to us testing the limits that Brian Woods talks about.
All we have to do is get on a plane on a clear day to see how much humans are shaping the planet. The only other species that are not suffering rapid declines in their populations are the ones we breed for our food.
Wars are not won anymore based on numbers of boots but wealth. Europes boarders are safe in that regard.
What you propose is Apocalyptic. Unfortunately much of the planet is following your advise.

@ Gregory Connor

“The crisis is not fundamentally caused by any of these: it is fundamentally caused by population pressures in Africa.”

Do you have an argument to support this assertion?

Europe (and the US) could start helping the African economies by curtailing subsidies that render African states unable to compete in agriculture

Clamping down on resource exploitation and corruption that flows through our financial service centres would be a bonus too

Less arms sales would do no harm either

I don’t dispute the statistics or the problem. I dispute the reason.

As regards the US I think you’ll find the birth rate has collapsed among white Americans. The main reason it holds up on average is the Hispanic population, which is of course far less educated and poorer. In 2010 Hispanic fertility rate in the US was 2.4 where as whites was 1.8.

The broad trend toward lower fertility is education, there are of course cultural difference between countries that matter too. For example I’ve a few Italian friends that cite Italy’s misogynistic culture as a reason women have fewer or no children i.e. They’ll have little help taking care of him/her/them.

France isn’t doing too bad relatively, with a fertility rate of 2 and I’m sure you would describe it as a bastion of liberalism.

Sorry about the comment approval delay — I did a long mountain hike today (Newcastle Way, Co Down, 28 miles, excellent experience) which took from very early in the morning until 8 pm — just back now. Comments do not appear until approved by one of the web site hosts — I think Philip Lane (who does most of the work) is away at conferences. It is the summer conference season for academic economists.

@Gregory Connor

Good points on African based solutions but without data it’s hard to agree with the statement “African population pressures are the underlying fundamental cause of the Mediterranean maritime emergency” as it ignores the problem of unusually high adult mortality rates. Demographic transitions usually stall as a result of poverty and underdevelopment – rather than population pressures. While a lot has been achieved in reducing child mortality rates, the adult mortality rate across many African countries continues to be very high. By comparison adult mortality rates in the EU are very low – surely this is enough in itself to drive migration?

Europe will adjust to ageing as Asia will have to as well. Malthusian calamity howling based on Japan’s experience is premature.

Africa is on a long journey and the past 10 years of unprecedented growth in sub-Saharan Africa provides reasons for hope. Chinese investment in Africa has generally been a positive development and Nigeria recently witnessed the peaceful transfer of power.

Europe should help but large scale immigration from Africa would be a challenge as even in liberal Sweden integration is a problem.

Italian textile manufacturers once planned to move up the value chain as they couldn’t compete with China, but in the Italian medieval city of Prato in Tuscany, they didn’t reckon that more than 30,000 Chinese officially living in the city of 200,000 people and many more who are illegal, would takeover the “Made in Italy” trade.

Almost a third of new entrepreneurs in the US in 2014 were immigrants and the over 3,000 Chinese firms in Prato contribute to the local economy while the Bank of Italy estimated in 2010 that Chinese individuals were remitting about €750m to China annually.

Of course there is resentment from some of the locals while Chinese owners do not always concern themselves with labour and tax laws.

“When we arrived we worked for the Italians. Now they work for us,” the FT quoted a Chinese factory owner. He had recently bought his son an $80,000 BMW. “Money is rolling in,” he said, explaining his largesse.

China has an estimated 1m migrants in Africa!


The more liberal the NY Times becomes, the worse it becomes.

Ditto with the Irish Times.

The ‘admiration’ global liberalism expressed for Ireland on May 23 hasn’t lasted long.

@That’s Legal

I think the very high immigrant population from Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent is more likely to be the reason why France’s fertility rate hasn’t fallen as much as in German, Italy and Spain. Ditto with the U. Kingdom. It would be interesting to see a breakup of the figures for France, similar to that which you gave for the U. States.


My take on why France bucks the trend is it has amazing supports for women who work. Great childcare etc. So women don’t have to choose between work and childcare. This is supported by the below Stat showing other European women in France have a higher fertility rate than they do in their home countries. Alternatively it could be that French men are just that bit more irresistible that other European men…. and yes the immigrant population bulk up the average too but not by as much as the Hispanics do in America. See below stats I dug out from 2008.

Fertility of foreign women in France in 2008


Fertility rate

Spain / Italy / Portugal 1.8

Other European 2.0

Algeria 3.5

Morocco / Tunisia 3.3

Other African 2.9

Turkey 2.9

Other Asian 1.9

Americas / Australasian 2.4

All immigrants 2.6

National average (including French) 1.9


@That’s Legal

Good figures.

But, they seem to back up what I said (although I was partly guessing). Namely, the fertility rate for Sub-Saharan African, North African and Middle-East women in France is close to twice that of European women in France. Add on continued migration from these regions to France, and it backs up what I said about the essential European character of France (and Europe) being destroyed by 2100. I read recently that Marseiile is already 40% North African. What’s it going to be in 2050? 80% North African? Yet, as you say, France is by mo means the worst case. As I said, no blame should be attached to individuals from these regions. Its not their fault. The fault is entirely with Europeans. For whatever reason (and I still believe secular liberalism is one of the main reasons), Europeans have lost the will to reproduce. Nature abhors a vacuum. By 2100 Europe as a territory will still exist, but its non-reproducing European population will have largely been replaced. Survival of the fittest.

Returning to Gregory Connor’s wish for ‘an enormous increase in European aid for Africa’, first Finland, now Denmark. They’ve thrown out their left-wing government in yesterday’s election. The racist anti-immigration Danish Peoples Party has made big gains (up to 21%) and is likely to be in the new government. Whatever will Fintan O’Toole do as his heroes desert him one by one. Can’t see them supporting ‘an enormous increase in European aid for Africa’. More likely to follow the Finns and cut it drastically.

BTW, a good (although politically-incorrect, and therefore unlikely to receive funding) subject for study would be why the Nordic countries are far more likely to vote for anti-immigrant parties than, say, Ireland? Off hand, I’d say (a) the insular nature of Lutheranism v the global nature of Catholicism (b) high-tax high spend countries are more likely to resent immigrants.

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