Babatunde Fagoyinbo



Population can be described as the whole number of people living in the world, a region, country, city, or area. I am limiting the description to the application in human sociology. There is practically no reason for a complex definition of population.

Population growth


Population growth refers to change in the size of a population, which can be either positive or negative, over time; depending on the balance of births and deaths and alongside immigration and emigration. Population growth is measured in both absolute and relative terms. Absolute growth is the difference in numbers between populations over time; for example, in 1950 Africa’s population was 228,670,019 and in 2010 it was 1,049,446,344 (, 2018), a growth of 820,776,325. Relative growth is usually expressed as a rate or a percentage; for example, in 2010 the rate of Africa’s population growth was 2.6% implying that for every 1,000 people in the world, 26 more are being added per year. This has taken care of deaths, migration and emigration.

Factors affecting population growth

Table 1: Africa’s Population Growth Pattern
Trigers of Population Growth

Also important is the determined and consistent effort of governance, in Africa, to put the population in check through a vigorous enlightenment of the population, compulsory education with the parents contributing substantially to its cost and enlightenment through religiousorganisations and traditional rulers.Using the figure (Figure 1) obtained from Pettinger (2017) discussed the triggers of population growth as economic development, education, quality of children, welfare payments/state pensions, social and cultural factors, availability of family planning, female labour market participation, death rates, immigration levels and historical factors/war. A detailed discussion of these factors, as affects Africa and its development efforts will be on a subsequent page. Table 2 shows the relative population growth by regions

Regions in the world by population (2018)

The Malthusian Trap and the Demographic Transition

Malthus’ was a strong voice against unchecked population growth in the late 18th and the early 19th centuries. His attention focused on population growth and food supply in England with special consideration to existing arable land and the level of technology available. He was of the view that by nature human food increases in a slow arithmetical ratio while man himself increases in a quick geometrical ratio unless he is constrained by want and vice. The increase in numbers is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence. Population invariably increases when the means of subsistence increase, unless prevented by powerful and obvious checks (Tushar, 2018).

Economic Development


There is a need to clearly understand what economy, development and economic development mean. Economy is defined as a social domain that emphasises the practices, discourses, and material expressions associated with the production, use, and management of resources (James et al, 2015). The economy is made up of the interactions among governance, the population and human and material resources and facilitated by such agents as individuals, businesses, organisations, or governments.

A given economy is the result of a set of processes that involves its governance, culture, values, education, technological evolution, history, social organisation, political structure and legal systems, as may be affected by its geography, natural resource endowment, and ecology. These factors give context, content, and set the conditions and parameters in which an economy functions.

There are three major types of economy:

  1. A market-based economy in which goods and services are produced and exchanged according to demand and supply between economic agents; either by barter or a medium of exchange with a credit or debit value acceptable within the network, such as a unit of currency;
  2. A command-based economy in which political agents directly control what is produced and how it is sold and distributed.
  • A green economy that is low-carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive in efforts to reduce and simultaneously enhance the global per capita use of natural resources and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. It generates growth and improvements in people’s lives in ways consistent with sustainable development.


Development is the process that leads to positive change through the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components.  Development adds value to the object. For a community, development results in a rise in the level and quality of life of the population, the creation or expansion of local income and employment opportunities with a determined and pragmatic effort to the sustainability of the available resources of the environment.

Economic Development

Economic development is the process by which a nation improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its people. The term has been used frequently by economists, politicians, and others in the 20th and 21st centuries. The concept, however, has been in existence in the West for centuries. Economic development has a direct relationship with the environment and environmental issues.

It is also essential, at this stage, to distinguish between economic development and economic growth. Economic development takes into consideration the totality of the economy as defined above. Economic growth is the increase in the market value of the goods and services produced by an economy over time measured conventionally as the per cent rate of increase in real gross domestic product (real GDP) and adjusted to eliminate the distorting effect of inflation on the price of goods produced. Increase may result from the amounts of inputs available for use (extensive growth) or more efficient use of inputs (intensive growth).

In economic growth, it is immaterial whether or not value is added. Increase in raw agricultural produce export, increase in the amount of raw iron ore extracted, etc. constitute economic growth.

Ingredients of economic development

Once again, creation blessing: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1: 28, KJV), implants in man the capacity to use all the resources of the earth for his wellbeing. Biblical earth is not limited to the planet earth but every other creation that man’s technology can access.

For an economy to develop there are such ingredients requirements as:

  1. Human resources. What proportion of the population is literate? What proportion is skilled? How much training has been provided? What is their health situation? What is their orientation? Table 3 shows the dearth of factors that steer the populace towards productive economy in Africa as compared with some of their erstwhile colonial masters. Human resources development (HRD) views humans as resources to be trained, educated, and developed within the system of an organisation for the purpose of enhancing the productivity of the organisation through the expertise of its workforce Hogendorn (1996) stated that the premise of human capital theory is that investments made in educating the workforce and developing their skills (among other services such as providing them with nourishment and maintaining their health) would pay dividends for a country in its effort to develop economic viability and contribute to an increase in output per each unit of input;
  2. Material resources: availability and access. Pont-à-Mousson imports the bulk of the raw materials required for its steel industries. Natural resources availability in a given region makes it easier for people to acquire and use them. However, its impact on economic development is a function of the energy of mind; the attitude towards material things; willingness to save and invest productively; the freedom and flexibility of institutions; and/or robust political structure anchored on good leadership;
  • Good governance: Knack (1995) determines five main indicators characterising good governance: (i) corruption; (ii) legal framework; (iii) public administration efficiency; (iv) lack of contract execution by the government; and (v) expropriation. Knack aggregates above indices in one aggregated index, so named ‘property right index’, which is evaluated from 0 (lowest) to 50 (highest).
  1. Political stability that ensures human rights, justice and peace. Early action to address the root causes of crises, such as social inequality or low access to justice and security, is key to preventing brewing tensions from escalating into full-blown conflict which may eventually thwart every effort geared towards economic development;
  2. Development of a viable, sustained, and sustainable economic development strategy which can bring economic peace and tranquillity;
  3. Establishment and emplacement of economic infrastructure and institutions: Infrastructure contributes to economic development both by increasing productivity and by providing amenities that enhance the quality of life. Basic infrastructures that impact on economic development include but not limited to: power, energy and water supplies; transportation; healthcare delivery; safety and security of lives and properties. The services generated by infrastructure investment lead to growth in the production in two ways: (i) infrastructure services are intermediate inputs to production, and any reduction in these input costs raises the profitability of production, permitting higher levels of output, income, and/or employment; and (ii) infrastructure services raise the productivity of other factors. The lack of infrastructure or its inadequate availability a given location may repel flows of additional resources and outflow of investment. The poor state of energy production has forced such manufacturers as Dunlop, Michelin, etc. out of the country and forced most other manufacturers to close down (Manuaka, 2012);
  • Development of administrative capacities that can implement coherent policies to eliminate any unequal economic power relationship between the small economic and political elite and the average citizen;
  • Foreign trade: International trade is a powerful enabler of economic development. Evidence exists that increased participation in international trade can spur economic growth, which itself is a necessary condition for broader development outcomes to be realised through connecting global markets to developing-country producers and consumers (UNCTAD, 2014). International trade provides a critical channel for the flow of finance, technology and services needed to further improve productive capacity in agriculture, industry and These are needed in turn for structural transformation of economies. However, there must be policies that are complementary to the enabling power of trade with its impacts on economic and social development”.

Impact of population growth on economic development

Natural Resources Availability

Population places a demand on infrastructures, however, it is also known that population can contribute tremendously to the provision of infrastructures.

Natural resources are spaciously but not evenly distributed and they are limited either in quantity or in the rate of availability and varies in time. They are of two types: the exhaustible and the inexhaustible. Fossil fuels and solid minerals are exhaustible while winds and solar radiation are inexhaustible. Water may be classified as inexhaustible but it can be diverted and its interaction with the soil coupled with geological processes within the locality can create diversions. Each of these resources has its advantages and limitations; while the rate of extraction will determine the period over which fossil fuel and minerals will be available, the rate of capture of wind, solar and hydro energy will be determined by the available flow rate.

Infrastructural development is not limited by the availability of input materials alone but also on fiscal and human resources. Fiscal resources are required to put in place facilities that would be needed for harnessing and distributing the resources while human resources are required to strategically plan the harnessing, production, distribution and management of the output.

Effect of Population on Resources

Malthus (1766–1834) warned against uncontrolled procreation, however, he was not anticipating such developments as advancements in technology that now help with manufacturing and agricultural production; recycling and sustainable industrial production practices. There are definitely more dangers than anticipated by Malthus in such areas as access to basic resources like clean drinking water, transportation and housing to mention a few.

Population and economic development

It is a general belief that additional people provide a workforce necessary to generate goods and services. However, this applies where the raw materials, human resources and other factors like infrastructures for the production are available. It must also be recognised that the quality of the human resource addition to the workforce is significant in its input into the production system.

Africa can be rated based on its ranking in the factors affecting economic development in relation to the rest of the world:

  1. Human resources. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest illiteracy rate of 35.7% among other regions given as Arab States19.3%; East Asia and the Pacific 4.3%; Europe and Central Asia 1.9%; Latin America and the Caribbean 6.8%; South Asia 29.7%. Nigeria’s illiteracy rate of 49% (Table 3) is much higher than Africa’s average. There are 21 countries within the assessed countries with 50% and above of their populations below the poverty line. African countries take a lion share of 16 countries with Nigeria ranking 5th thus making it difficult to raise capital for investment (indexmundi, 2018).
  2. Material resources: Fagoyinbo (2018) shows the availability of fossil fuels and other minerals of the African region alongside other regions. Africa ranks poor in relation to other regions in most of the resources
  • Good governance: The level of corruption is a good measure of the level of integrity of the governance. Of the 24 countries that score below 25 in CPI, Somalia had the least score with 10 marks and 13 of the countries are located in Africa. No African country was able to enter into the list of 17 countries that scored 75 and higher
  1. Political stability: In the state fragility index 13 countries score higher than 100 with South Sudan heading the list. 8 African countries showed up on this inglorious list (Wikipedia, 2018)
  2. Development of a viable, sustained, and sustainable economic development strategy: The logistic Performance Index (LPI) is an interactive benchmarking tool created to help countries identify the challenges and opportunities they face in their performance on trade logistics and what they can do to improve their performance. 13 African countries appear in the list of the 20 lowest ranked countries while there is none among the list of the 20 highest ranked.
  3. Establishment and emplacement of economic infrastructure and institutions: Healthcare delivery is an important infrastructure along with road network, water supply for all of domestic, industrial and agriculture. Among the lowest 20 countries in health delivery status, Africa takes a lion share of 18 countries with no representation among the highest ranked 20 countries (, 2018a). With road network density measured in km per 1000km2, no African country is listed among the 20 countries having the densest while it registers 13 out of the 20 least networked countries (, 2018). Compared with Iceland that ranked 1st with 56,720KWh/annum per capita production of electricity, South Africa leads the African countries with a total production of 235,000×106 KWh per annum, giving an annual per capita production of 4,858KWh. South Africa ranks 60th in per capita production of electricity. Of the 10 least producing countries, Africa takes a lion share of 8 countries, with Togo ranking 218th out of 219 countries at a per capita production of 14KWh/annum
  • Development of administrative capacities: All 22 countries of the world with HDI below 0.5 are African countries; including Nigeria.
  • Foreign trade: WTO (2016) states “Africa’s exports experienced a significant 30 per cent decline in dollar terms in 2015. Accounting for about 40 per cent of the region’s exports, Sub-Saharan oil-exporting countries, such as Equatorial Guinea and Congo, were significantly affected by the 60 per cent decline in oil prices. Nigeria saw a decline of almost 50 per cent in its export revenues in dollar terms. This weakness was also due to a variety of other factors, including slow growth in North Africa and domestic and political turmoil. Growth in South Africa and Morocco was relatively better than the average for the region, with a less marked decline in the value of their exports.” It is to be recognised that most exports from African countries are raw materials. The dependence of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on oil exports and imports – particularly Nigeria, which accounted for 50 per cent of ECOWAS exports – resulted in its share of world exports falling to 0.5 per cent in 2015 from 0.9 per cent in 2012.


This article has not conclusively placed population factor in a position of retardation to economic development. However, it can be recognised that other factors that contribute to economic development can be depressed by population increase. Population growth is not really a depressing factor to economic development but it is certain that population should be allowed to grow in proportion to economic growth and development.

The impacts of high birth and death rates are increasing population size and density, rapid population growth and uncontrolled rural-urban migration which in turn heighten the problems of unemployment, underemployment, persistent poverty, urban slums, crime and political unrest. These all lead to increasing dependency burden on infrastructures requirements for economic development.

GDP and Literacy Statuses of African Countries

Next: We shall look at the infrastructures that the colonialists left behind and how Africa has built on them


This article is presented with the view of raising concern for the development of the “developing countries”, not to condemn any government but to create awareness and fashion out concrete paths towards development. While African nations will be the focus, examples will be drawn from other regions. It is hoped that peoples from other nations will contribute positively to the programme of fashioning out the path of development.

There is a Yoruba adage that says “Eepa npa ara ę o ni oun npa’ja, t’aja ba ku n’ibo ni eepa yio wa?” meaning “The dog worm is carrying out its extermination; believing that it is killing the dog, where will be its habitation at the demise of the dog?”

This applies to African (and their likes) leaders who are busy carting away the resources of Africa into foreign lands to keep for their children. The Lord who created us said “So shall my word ‘If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. (Ex 22:1,KJV)’ be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa 55:11, KJV). To those who assume that the grace has covered their iniquities “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8, KJV) to which Jesus replied “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:9-10, KJV).

Kindly make positive contributions that will lead to development within your country and that will benefit the generality of the populace; not emotional contribution, if any view contradicts your own personal view. There is no one that is 100% right.



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James, P; L Magee; A Scerr and M Stege (2015). Urban Sustainability in Theory and Practice: Circles of sustainability. Routledge, London, New York.

Malthusian Theory of Population: Explained with its Criticism

Manuaka, T. (2012). Government Policy Forced Us Out of Manufacturing – Mohammed Yunusa, MD, Dunlop Nigeria. Accessed 22 May 2012. Wednesday, 29 February 2012…GbPVT8

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WTO (2016). Trading patterns: Global and regional perspectives. Ch 5 in World Trade Statistical Review 2016

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