Senior politicians in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Saturday called for measures to cut the birth rate in the region in order to bring the population explosion there under control.
Deputies of ECOWAS, Mauritania and Chad should be aiming to cut back the birth rate to three children per woman, said Salifou Diallo, Burkina Faso’s speaker of parliament.
The idea, he said, was to cut the birth rate in half by 2030, in a region that has the highest fertility rates in the world.
He called for countries to adopt measures including universal access to family planning, improved education for women and better health care of children, to bring about “a rapid, voluntary decline” in the birth rate.
With an average fertility rate of 5.6 children per woman, the highest in the world, the population in the 15-nation West African regional bloc will reach a billion people by 2050 if no changes are made, according to UN estimates.
“We are in a situation of uncontrolled demography and we cannot hope for development with such a situation,” Diallo warned.
“It is urgent to contain the demographic push in the ECOWAS space to promote real, viable and durable development.”
“Young people represent two thirds of the population,” said Marcel De Souza, president of the ECOWAS Commission.
“This youth, when it doesn’t find any solutions, becomes a bomb: they cross the desert or the Mediterranean, die by thousands through clandestine immigration,” he added.
Adrien Houngbedji, president of Benin’s parliament, said the region’s politicians must decide themselves on the balance between controlling the birth rate and improving the quality of life.