Africa still blooming:
We used to call it “the land of contrasts.”  I guess before that it was the “dark continent.”  But of course you can’t characterize it in a single phrase.  It’s much too big. 

For all my prophesies of doom and gloom, Africa has always seemed like a place of hope.  India is promising.  The Near East is of course troubled but some of them still have babies.  But the biggie has always been Africa.  (Can It Survive Such Speedy Growth? ECONOMIST vol. 412 no. 8902 page 40)  the title of the article is silly.  Of course Africa can survive.  It can survive AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, ebola, famine, war, drought and so forth and so on and all at the same time.  We’ve seen that.  Ebola scares me, I admit.  But if it ever goes airborne Africa is prepared to go into years-long lockdown.  Nobody else is. 

The real interest of the article has to do with something called the “demographic transition,” the all time world’s champeen of euphemisms.  It means as a country gets rich the babies stop.  Well the slow dramatically and excessively.  We really haven’t seen them stop yet on a big scale.  Well Africa is getting rich and the birth rate is falling.

We all know why this happens.  Rich people get around more, have more social opportunities and don’t marry cousins.  Ergo insufficient babies.

But the flap is that Africa’s birth rate is not falling as fast as others have fallen as their wealth has increased.  The result is that they say by the end of the century half the babies in the world will be born in Africa.

It’s a big place.  With modern technology it surely could feed them.  They say that the Netherlands, which is tiny, exports more food than any other country except the US, which isn’t tiny.  Africa is immense.  If you take Asia and exclude what is generally called Europe, you have lots of land, but Africa is bigger. 

But the experts are hung up on this weak demographic transition. 

But of course it’s weak.  Africa is where modern people came from.  They’ve been there a long time.  They’ve learned that if you want to keep a population you’re going to have to limit your gene pool size.  Experience is a harsh schoolmistress. 

The question is whether, at the end of the day, they need the rest of us.  If so, we need to change something.

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