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Groningen Growth and Development Centre

Faculty of Economics and Business
Historical Development

The African population boom

In historical perspective

Current population growth rates in Sub-Saharan Africa (hereafter Africa) are unprecedented: according to the UN’s latest projections it is the only world region that will quadruple in size this century, reaching 4 billion people by 2100 (UN 2015). Some countries will grow even faster – the populations of Niger and Liberia are expected to quadruple within the next 50 years. This rapid enlargement of the population has major implications for the future. The depletion of natural resources, increase in pollution, and lagging government investments in health, education, and infrastructure will make it more difficult for the region to grow out of poverty. As population growth patterns are long-term phenomena (the effects of changes in fertility and mortality today are felt over generations) we need to understand historical population developments in order to interpret current demographic trends and dynamics. This project aims to present population growth patterns for the period 1820-1960, using thus far unexplored missionary records.

This project is financially supported by The Wallenberg Foundations. The project coordinator is Jutta Bolt.

Last modified:23 November 2021 4.01 p.m.