Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa – Jason


Nigeria is located in West Africa (Nigeria).

To acquire well-rounded learning on my research topic, I decided to learn the demography of the type of countries that is different from the two past posts I have written for my independent study.

For my first analysis, I examined the demography of two relatively developed European countries that have contrasting past with population control. Through this analysis, I learned the general demographic trend of mature societies, characterized by a decreasing total fertility rate (TFR). For my second analysis, I carried out an in-depth study on the demography of China, with the focus on the famous One-Child policy. From writing this post, I learned how a country can experience both exponential population growth and a sudden decrease in population in a short period when forceful policies get implemented. Upon searching for the subject of my research, I looked for a country with the following two qualities that are different from my past subjects: high TFR and low level of economic developments. As I continued my research, I naturally came to realize that most Sub-Saharan African countries fall into the desired classification. The reason I decided to focus specifically on Sub-Saharan Africa is due to the many similarities in socioeconomic backgrounds Sub-Saharan African countries share.


Why Nigeria?

With the exception of Mauritius, all Sub-Saharan African countries have fertility rates above the replacement level TFR (See my second blog post for a detailed definition) (“Fertility rate”). In 2017, the top 9 countries with the highest TFRs are Sub-Saharan African countries, and 18 out of the 20 countries in the world with the highest TFRs are in Sub-Saharan Africa (“The World”). To choose a single state for further analysis, I chose a state that satisfies all the following qualities:

  • The level of TFR higher than the past two subjects, while also being close enough to the regional average to represent Sub-Saharan Africa appropriately
  • The level of economic development lower than the previous two subjects, while also being close enough to the regional average to represent the region appropriately
  • The population size that is large enough to be compared with the past two subjects (China, France, and Germany)

I chose Nigeria as a subject for this blog post because it met the qualities above the most compared to other possible candidates from the region. Nigeria has a TFR of 5.526 in 2016, relatively close to the Sub-Saharan African average of 4.85 (“Fertility Rate”). To assess the level of economic development, I used the Human Development Index (HDI). HDI is an index that was designed to represent the level of human development of each country comparatively. It is issued annually by UN and is mathematically computed based on numerous sets of statistical data. The maximum value of HDI possible is 1 (“Human Development”). Nigeria has an HDI of 0.532 in 2017, extremely close to the Sub-Saharan African average of 0.537 (“Table 1. Human”). What makes Nigeria an appropriate representative of Sub-Saharan Africa the most, however, is its large population. Nigeria has the largest population in the region of about 190 million in 2017 (“Population, Total”). This population is as large as a subject can get in the region, and therefore makes the country an appropriate subject of research compared to other subjects from past posts, all of which had sizable populations (about 1.3 billion for China, 67 million for France, and 82 million for Germany, all in 2017).

Background of Nigeria’s high TFR

Given the global TFR average of 2.439, the Nigerian TFR of 5.526 is one of the highest in the world, making the 9th fastest growing country as of 2016 (“Fertility Rate”). Behind this growth, which is sometimes seen as a mere commercial opportunity for businesses in developed countries, there are various factors that are unique to the region.


In Sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 57% of employment still engages in agriculture today (Farming in Africa).

Cultural and Historical Reasons

Many Sub-Saharan African countries have a history of perpetuating gender inequality, characterized in the form of polygamy in Nigeria “as a means of enhancing a family’s productive capacity” (Falola and Heaton 128). Moreover, the country has a culture of considering larger families as a symbol of wealth (Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations). Taking these qualities together with the generally high rate of reported rape in the region, it can reasonably be stated that Nigerian women face an entirely different kind of outside pressure and expectation upon making decisions of whether to have children when compared to those in developed countries—if they are even allowed to have the autonomy for themselves. Large family, however, might be a necessity for some Nigerian families in addition to being for a mere appearance. As of 2017, about 36% of the total employment in Nigeria engages in agriculture—about 10% higher than the global average—and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole has a surprising rate of 57% percent (“Employment in agriculture”). Furthermore, an Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram is active and rejects contraception for their religious belief and, strictly constraining the use of contraceptive methods (“The problems”). In some parts of the country where the group has the control, therefore, it can be presumed that there are more unwanted births compared to other regions of the country.


Many children in Sub-Saharan Africa still lack access to education (African Children).

Health issues and education

Another underlying condition behind the sudden population increase in Nigeria in recent years, as well as the Sub-Saharan African region as a whole, is the coincidence of the improvement in medical condition of the region, most of which attributes to foreign humanitarian aids, and the traditional attempt to offset the high mortality rate of infants by having a large number of children. Both Nigeria’s and the region’s mortality rates of infants decreased by approximately half sine 1990 (“Mortality rate”). Such disproportion in human development and infrastructural development can be seen in the other aspect of Nigeria: the high unemployment rate of people with higher education (Okafor et al). Overall, the country doesn’t yet have the sound social structure to make use of human capital and the benefits of foreign aid. Another reason behind the high fertility rate is the lack of opportunities for education in general, and consequently, Nigerian people lack access to necessary sex education. The latest national census shows the literacy rate of 51% and it is clear that education is an aspect of Nigeria that requires significant improvement, compared to the global average of 86% (“Literacy Rates”).


African countries’ exponential population growths sometimes bear the blame for climate change (Arid Ground).

Conclusion and ideas for demonstration of learning

Nigeria’s and Sub-Saharan Africa’s demography is overall characterized by a lack of economic development. Despite the increasing population, Nigeria does not seem to be utilizing the resources they have and receive, and many of the citizens remain illiterate. It might just be the path any modern developed countries took in the past, but the whole international community might be able to collectively thrive if other developed countries can guide these societies in need of support to the right direction, in addition to simply providing them with material aids.

One of the popular arguments I came across as I studied the demography of Sub-Saharan Africa is to discourage population growth in developing countries, such as Nigeria, since greenhouse gas emitted by such growth further threatens the changing climate of the earth. This argument is debatable even among the scholars of the field, and I also considered the validity of the case. Since my reflection on this topic is still at the design stage for now, I do not expand any further on this in detail, but I found some possibilities of statistically exploring this topic from the perspective of combining the target country’s level of a carbon footprint with its industrial development. My inspiration for this idea came from a strong correlation I observed between the sudden increase in China’s greenhouse gas emission and its increase industrial production. I wish to brainstorm this topic further, combining with some more new research ideas I have come up with, and see if it could be developed as the topic for my demonstration of learning, instead of my initial plan to carry out an in-depth analysis on the demographic study of Japan.


Works Cited

African Children in School. The Albert Baker Fund,×400.jpg. Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

Arid Ground. ONE, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“Employment in agriculture (% of total employment) (modeled ILO estimate).” World Bank Open Data, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

Falola, Toyin, and Matthew M. Heaton. “Chapter 5 Colonial society to 1929.” A History of Nigeria, e-book, Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2008, pp. 110-35.

Farming in Africa. The African Exponent, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“Fertility rate, total (births per woman), Nigeria.” World Bank Open Data, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“Fertility rate, total (births per woman), Sub-Saharan Africa.” World Bank Open Data, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“Fertility rate, total (births per woman), World.” World Bank Open Data, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“Human Development Index (HDI).” United Nations Development Programme Human Development Reports, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“Literacy Rates – UNICEF Data.” UNICEF, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“Mortality rate, infant (per 1,000 live births).” World Bank Open Data, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

Nigeria. Guttmacher Institute, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

Okafor, Judd-Leonard Okafor, et al. “Unemployment graduates into Nigeria’s biggest problem.” Daily Trust, 29 Sept. 2018, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“Population, Total, Nigeria.” World Bank Open Data, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“The problems of family planning in Nigeria.” The Economist, 29 Apr. 2017, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“Table 1. Human Development Index and its components.” United Nations Development Programme Human Development Reports,, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

“The World Factbook COUNTRY COMPARISON :: TOTAL FERTILITY RATE.” Central Intelligence Agency, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. “Nigeria.”, Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.

2 thoughts on “Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa – Jason

  1. ninayichenwei

    I’m impressed by the depth of your analysis and abundant correlations you mentioned in this post to your previous work. Your work on comparing demographic trends and their causes in different countries globally is a great perspective to examine the intersection of the environment, demography, education, and other cultural elements in each country. Keep up the good work! I look forward to reading your future posts.

  2. Jason Ono Post author

    Thank you for your comment. Like you mentioned, the multidimensionality of the subject is what is interesting as I study this topic. I hope to somehow elucidate the complicated correlations between various factors in my demonstration of learning.


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