At a time when the new President of the United States, Donald Trump, has decided to cut a large part of the US’s contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the pretext that the Fund encourages, among other things, abortion, countries such as Niger have every reason to wonder.
In Niger in particular, the demographic issue has been of concern to governments and donors since the 1980s. Why? First, according to the diagnosis made by the Government Declaration on Population Policy (DGPP) adopted on 13 February 2007 by the State, “from 3 million in 1960, the population increased to about 11 Million in 2001 and to almost 13 million in 2006.
Thus, over a period of 46 years, the Niger population has increased fourfold, an average doubling every 23 years …” In addition, “the average annual economic growth rate is only 3.1%, hence a mismatch between population growth (3.3%) and that of the economy”.
But more seriously, in March 2017, the deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Population and Social Welfare asserted that “by 2016 this population had been estimated at 20.2 million people … In addition, the total fertility rate is 7.6 children per woman and the population growth rate of 3.9%. If these trends continue in the coming decades, Niger would be the second most populous country in West Africa in 2050 with an estimated population of 94 million “. It should be noted that the DGPP counted on 56 million inhabitants in 2050.
The primary objective of the DGPP was that “the average number of children per woman decreases from seven to five and the rate of population growth from 3.3% to 2.5%”. This, by playing on the spacing of births, the reduction of early marriages, etc.
The Multi-Sector Demographic Project (PRODEM) was launched with external funding, including UNFPA. Placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Population, PRODEM will very quickly face two problems: the low consumption of credits and, above all, the reluctance of the marabouts to relay its messages. The lack of communication is such that even the National Assembly has refused to ratify the international instruments essential to the implementation of the recommended measures!
Proof of the rejection of what many marabouts consider as a “Jewish-Masonic conspiracy” aimed at reducing the number of Muslims on earth, especially in a Niger presented as more than 90% Muslim, the regional radio station in Maradi, the third city of Niger located 600 kilometers east of Niamey, was ransacked, because of a debate on the subject. The government has unsuccessfully explained the fact that Arab-Muslim countries such as Tunisia have solved their problem of population growth.
But the problem is more profound than it seems; It does not concern only the mood or ignorance of certain influential marabouts on the subject. It deals with the very conceptions that the specialists defend. Some argue that the exponential growth of the population is a brake on development and others that the youth of the population is an asset to ensure this same development.
Between these two schools, the authorities in Niger have since the 1980s, been seen to want to spare the goat and the cabbage.
This explains why the 3.3% increase in population in 2006 rose to 3.9% in 2016. But why is the current regime, which boasts an economic growth rate of more than 5% on average per year, still pleading for the control of population growth? Who can understand!
The fact is that since 1968 Niger has been a major producer of uranium and since 2011 of oil. Notwithstanding the fall in prices of these products on the international market, there seems to be a real problem of redistributing wealth among its 20 million inhabitants. As proof, even the 15% of resources for the regions where these products are produced are not paid according to the legislative and regulatory provisions to the municipalities concerned.
In these circumstances, how can we understand that, for some time now, the Ministry of Population has been organizing “trainings of the Secretaries General and central executives of the technical partner ministries on the demographic dividend”? Would they be more convincing than the highest authorities in the country or the mighty Ulemas of Niger? That is the question!
In fact, the debate on the demographic issue is raging in other heavens and for other reasons. On the one hand, popular China wants to revisit the “one child policy” to stop the aging of its population and, on the other hand, according to a Turkish friend, press boss in Izmir met in 2005 in Germany, the refusal of Europe to accept Turkey in the European Union would find its explanation in the risk of seeing this country, with its very young and growing population, “Islamizing” the old continent whose population is aging …
The case of Niger must therefore challenge everyone. Did not Lenin say that “He who keeps Africa holds the world?”
Enough thought for meditation.
By Soulé Manzo / Niamey