MAHAMA CAUTIONS AFRICANS ON POPULATION EXPLOSION

Former Ghanaian President, John Mahama
Former Ghanaian President, John Mahama, has expressed his worries over what he described as the explosive rate at which population is growing in Africa.
Mahama said unlike other regions of the world, the prognosis of the current population demographic in Africa which currently stands at about 1.1 billion people could soar to four billion people by the end of century 2100, going by the present growth rate.

Speaking as a Guest Lecturer at the 7th edition of Realnews Magazine annual Lecture series which was held in Abuja last week, he added that Nigeria alone will have approximately 400 million people and become the third most populous country after China and India.

He noted that Africa has averagely 4.8 live births per woman, which is still lower than the average of 6.8 in the late 70’s. This demographic dividend, according to him presents both a benefit and a risk.

He added that an energetic workforce with greater prosperity can be achieved if the next generations lower their fertility rates and have fewer babies.

“The challenge facing Africa at the present rate of population growth is how to find jobs for this teeming population of young people. Africa adds almost 12 million young people to the job market every year, and yet is able to produce only about 7 million sustainable jobs.

“This means almost 5 million idle hands every year. African economies must grow and clip along at above 8 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate to be able to sustain this rate of population growth”, he said.

The former Ghanaian President, therefore harped on the need for countries in the continent to aggressively position their respective economies for growth in other to provide more employment avenues for its growing populations.

“To do this, we must change our existing economic models and paradigms. Africa with its urbanizing population must look more to developing its service and digital economies faster. This sector of the economy, if nurtured, is prone to fast growth and can provide employment for millions of young Africans coming out of school”, he further explained. .

Mahama added that great potential for growth also exists in tourism, the creative industry, ICT, and financial services, adding that in his country Ghana, in Nigeria and other African countries, the services sector has overtaken agriculture as the largest and fastest growing sector of the economy.

“African countries must create the right environment for these to grow through tax incentives, reduced regulation and red tape. We must change our model of being producers of raw commodities.

“Africa’s gold must reach the rest of the world as valuable jewelry, her oil must arrive as petroleum products, her timber as furniture, her cocoa as chocolates, bauxite as aluminum and copper as semi-conductor parts”, he stressed.

He said value addition and processing will provide more wealth for African economies and millions of jobs for the young people. To achieve this, he recommended that Africa must invest in making power more available for domestic, industrial and agricultural use.

“While Africa cannot follow the model of the past industrial revolutions that have polluted and threaten the very existence of our planet, cleaner forms of energy, including gas-fired thermal, hydro, solar and wind energy are areas we must aggressively invest in.

“Nigeria must as a priority aggressively pursue a gas-to-power policy and stop the flaring of almost 300 billion standard cubic feet of gas per annum representing a loss of almost $700 million a year”, he added.

Mahama also suggested that Africa must support the Inga dam and other potential hydro power projects, which could bring about an additional 40,000 MW of power to South, East, West and Central African economies.

He said investment in social and economic infrastructure is also imperative, adding that Africa as a continent must make the big push, especially in the transport sector.

“Road, rail, maritime, aviation must all receive priority attention in order to ensure efficient movement of passengers and goods both within and between our countries”, the former president stressed.

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