— “Many in position of power think the world has become overpopulated recently, and Africa takes the center of attention because of the constant increase in population”
— “European countries are nowadays giving incentives to their women to give birth to more babies. Yet, an already underpopulated continent, Africa is crowded with Western ‘experts’ giving money to NGOs and governments to stop the population growth”
— “The debate about the world overpopulation should not be about headcount, but about a single individual’s impact on the environment, and it is necessary to recalculate the ‘overpopulation factor’ based on those parameters”.
Last month in Paris, a conference gathered a panel of white people to think about more effective ways to reduce black population in Africa.
One of the conference organizers, a historian and Associate Professor of African history, Bernard Lugan, said: “Population growth in Africa is a threat to European civilization … I’m not recommending to drop a nuclear bomb on Africa, but we can’t wait to see that population growth next to Europe. It’s a danger we have to take seriously.”
Their plan is to syndicate more closely private and public organizations in Western countries to provide money and logistics for faster and more effective actions to curb the ‘frightening’ African population growth.
This is just surreal, but let’s take a calmer road to answer the fundamental question behind such conferences and the numerous similar initiatives in Europe and the United States: is Africa overpopulated?
First, what is overpopulation?
Overpopulation is an array of negative social and ecological impacts caused by increasing competition between individuals or groups due to the increasing scarcity of resources. The scarcity could be caused either by decreasing resources of water, food and other life necessities because of a growing population, or by overconsumption of those resources due to unhealthy lifestyle or economical ideology.
Put simply, overpopulation is caused either by limited resources not enough to sustain the ever-growing population, or by overconsumption due to unhealthy lifestyle.
The debate on the world overpopulation has been ongoing for over 150 years. Many in position of power think the world has become overpopulated recently, and Africa takes the center of attention because of the constant increase in population.
Often, the people behind the Africa overpopulation debate would produce shiny graphics and complex MBA types of matrix that look very convincing, and indeed would trick people not familiar with the issues into agreeing with their points.
Here is a flipped coin perspective you won’t see in the mainstream news outlets.
In the 15th century, Africans represented 17% of the world population. At the beginning of the 20th century, Africans accounted only for a little bit more than 7%. What has happened during these four centuries of depopulation of Africa? You already have the answer. Today, Africans represent only 16% of the world population, less than five centuries ago, while Asians represent more than 60%.
Keep in mind that India is more populated than Africa while Africa is nine times the size of India. Bangladesh with half the area of Gabon has 125 million inhabitants, whereas Gabon has barely two million.
Congo is 2,345,408 square kilometers, slightly greater than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway. The population of Congo is only 68 million; yet, Germany’s is about 82 million; Spain, 47 million; France, 66 million; Sweden, ten million; Norway, five million. Now, think of the little island of Britain, three times smaller than Madagascar. If you take the population of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho, and probably throw in Namibia for good measure, that will bring us up to the population of the UK, if not just under.
Africa is inhabited by 87 people per square kilometre, against 57 in the Americas, 246 in Asia, and 188 in Europe. It means that Europe is the most overpopulated continent in the world. Indeed, the most overpopulated countries per square kilometre are mostly in Europe, regardless of the fact that Europe had shipped over half a billion of its population surplus to two continents: America and Australia.
Five centuries ago, there were no Europeans in America, Australia, or Africa.
European countries are nowadays giving incentives to their women to give birth to more babies. Yet, an already underpopulated continent, Africa is crowded with Western ‘experts’ giving money to NGOs and governments to stop the population growth. In the meantime, China is abandoning its one-child policy to boost its populace.
Here is another perspective that casts the concept of overpopulation as a fraud and a convenient ideology because it voluntary ignores the impact per capita (per one person) and focuses on simple numerical analysis.
The problem with the world population is not that we are too ‘heavy’ for the Earth to carry, the problem with the world population is the impact of human consumption and activity on the environment and resources.
The USA consumes 25% of world resources while its population is under 5%. And the West as a bloc represents less than 15% of the overall world population while consuming over half of world resources and being responsible for 80% of the world climate change factors.
When it comes to carbon dioxide emission (‘carbon footprint’) per person on the global scale, one person in the US emits about 20 tons every year, one person in the European Union emits 11 tones, one person in China emit three tones, and one person in the sub-Saharan Africa emits a maximum of 300 kilograms. Which means the African carbon impact is 66 times less than American, and 36 times less than European.
Put simply, the impact of a single American on the environment and his role in furthering the global warming effect is equivalent to that of almost 7,000 Africans. A single European threatens the environment with the ‘force’ of 4,000 Africans.
The same goes for the consumption of vital resources like water, meat, etc. For example, the US, with a population around 300 million people, consume as much water per person as China or India which each have above one billion inhabitants. EU countries follow similar patterns.
The whole African continent’s population is less than China’s alone, and a total GDP the size of a small country like France (France’s 2013 GDP was 2.806 trillion USD vs Africa’s 2.6
trillion in 2013) which is five times smaller than Congo.
Looking from that perspective, you can now see why it is convenient for some people to throw dubious numbers out there: attacking poor Africans is such a harmless exercise.
The debate about the world overpopulation should not be about headcount, but about a single individual’s impact on the environment, and it is necessary to recalculate the ‘overpopulation factor’ based on those parameters.
The world is overpopulated, let’s have less rich people should be the real agenda.
There are too many Americans, too many Europeans, too many Australians, too many Japanese, too many Singaporeans, and so on, because they are the people impacting our common planet in the worst way. Only, concerning Africa, we are talking about population reduction strategies funded by Western NGOs and governments.
Is it because Africa does not have resources to feed two billion people? No. It is because other nations want those resources for their own people.
If you live in Africa, and those Western overpopulation experts come to spread their dubious propaganda, ask them some tough questions and take them as the new Christopher Columbus. I hope you won’t bite on this new covert war on the poor and another distraction from the real culprits.
Finally, let me say this to those who are conceiving the African continent to be, look, and consume like Europe and America: “You are going in the wrong direction. The future requires a different model.”
Mawuna R. Koutonin
Mawuna Remarque Koutonin is an editor of SiliconAfrica.com and a social activist for Africa Renaissance. Koutonin’s ultimate dream is to open a world-class human potential development school in Africa in 2017. Follow @siliconafrica on Twitter