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How Nigeria wants to lower its birth rate

Muhammadu Buhari

Last week, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said he wanted to regulate births in order to improve his country's economic situation.

With 211 million inhabitants, according to the American NGO Population Reference Bureau (PRB), and a fertility rate of 5,3 children per woman, Nigeria is struggling to control its births. For an improvement in "the quality and standard of living of all Nigerians", President Muhammadu Buhari wants to put in place a birth control policy.

Researcher and author of the book “World Demography”, Gilles Pison explained in 2015 to La Croix that “the increase in population does not constitute as such a brake on economic growth. Many countries developed at a time when their population was growing. But it all depends on the pace of growth.”

However, the Nigerian economy having contracted by 1,8% in 2020, the recovery was announced by the International Monetary Fund. For 2022, the financial authority forecasts growth of 2,7%. Positive growth but less strong than in 2021.

To get its economy back on track, Nigeria has put in place a National Development Plan 2021-2025. Problem: growing and uncontrolled demography risks undermining this plan. It is in this context that Muhammadu Buhari announced birth control measures in his country.

Last week, the Head of State called for the promotion of contraceptive methods, in a country where the rate of married women using modern methods of contraception does not exceed 12%.

Populations refractory to birth control

For several years, Nigeria has been thinking about the best way to control its births. In 2018, Nigeria's finance minister said the government had called on traditional leaders and religious organizations to address the problem of population growth, to put in place "a policy that limits the number of children a mother can have because it is important to support our growth”.

An exit that had caused an uproar. The minister then had to say that Nigeria would “not limit the number of deliveries” of women in the country. It must be said that, three decades earlier, President Ibrahim Babangida had also tried to limit each couple to having a maximum of four children. It went badly with the people.

However, the situation is alarming: according to the United Nations, Nigeria should see its population almost double by 2050, risking reaching 400 million inhabitants. The country will then be, behind China and India, the third most populous country on the planet.

Buhari believes that a birth control policy will "address the concerns of the large population of young people who are our pride". These measures will enable "Nigeria to quickly control fertility, improve the health of women, adolescents, newborns and children, as well as other population groups", says the President.

Apart from promoting contraception, the Nigerian President has launched the National Population Management Council (NCPM), which will be in charge of working on the four-year programme.

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