Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Polit Afr. 1991 Dec;(44):78-90.

[Families in crisis and population policies in Sub-Saharan Africa].

[Article in French]



During the 3 decades since independence, most sub-Saharan African countries have experienced accelerated demographic growth and increased migration from rural to urban areas. The 2 factors have considerably increased the costs of raising children, who have become more numerous and acquired new needs. In rural areas, families continue to fill much of their children's need for health care and employment. The declining ability of governments beset by economic crises and structural adjustment programs to do so has led some observers to predict that a new demand for smaller families and thus family planning will ensue. But in order for the declarations of intention made to foreign donors with increasing frequency by African governments to lead to significant fertility modifications, a combination of great political will, agreement of families with the new fertility objectives, and accessible family planning infrastructure would be required. Changes of this magnitude are at present difficult to visualize. Most African governments since the 1984 World Population Conference have stated their support of policies to slow demographic growth, but their true attitudes are often ambivalent. Many family planning programs receive only timid official help despite apparent encouragement. Authorities of some small countries concerned about the political implications of population size may hesitate to support family planning, and in all of Africa the desire to limit family size is contrary to deeply held social values. African family planning programs confront both political reticence and the fact that most Africans still consider a large family beneficial, not just through blind adherence to tradition but because for the 70% who support themselves in agriculture a large labor force is essential. Children provide security for the old and infirm. For much of the population, the conditions justifying high fertility in the past--high mortality rates and dependence of production on the available labor force--have changed too little to have caused profound modifications in family size preferences. Fertility surveys in sub-Saharan Africa show that family size desires remain high in most countries. In urban areas, demand for contraception is beginning to appear, but much of it is destined to replace traditional means of spacing that are falling into decline. The obvious potential demand for services from women at the beginning of their reproductive lives and from women lacking permission of their husbands is discouraged by most African family planning programs. Social progress and coercion appear to have been the 2 principal routes to fertility transition in the developing world. Social progress requires improved health and education, goals made more distant by structural adjustment programs. Diminished social investment in sub-Saharan countries appears much more likely to result in increased fertility than in smaller family sizes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons


    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Support Center