Fertility rates in sub-Saharan Africa declining

Some recent studies of fertility rates and preferences in sub-Saharan Africa
indicate the area is undergoing a fertility transition.

Population Action International recently reported on the results of a study
of African couple’s ideal family size. According to the study, the number
of children couples want declined in most sub-Saharan countries. In Kenya, for
example, couples say they want an average of four children, down from seven
in the 1980s.

As PAI researcher Shanti R. Conly noted, “A growing number of women in
Africa don’t want any more children.”

The desire to have fewer children is expressed in rising use of contraceptives.
Although still low at only 18 percent for the whole of the sub-Saharan region,
there have been impressive gains in several countries. In Zimbabwe, for example,
contraceptive use increased to nearly 50 percent and is now over 30 percent
in Botswana and Kenya.

It is these trends that are responsible for the fertility drop noted in a recent
Population Council report on fertility levels in sub-Saharan Africa. As the
Population Council put it, “the transition from high- to low-fertility
is now well established and progressing at a rapid pace in some sub-Saharan
countries, especially in Kenya and Zimbabwe … areas with higher education
for women and lower child mortality have experienced large reductions in fertility
and desired family size, and the prospects for continued fertility decline are
good for Eastern Africa and urban West Africa.”

In Kenya, the total fertility rate fell from 8.0 children per women to its
current rate of 5.3 children per woman in only 15 years.

Sources:

African women no longer want as many children, according to report. David Briscoe,
Associated Press, May 3, 1998/

Fertility levels, trends and differentials in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s
and 1990s. Population Council, Press release, March 24, 1998.

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