Niger has one of the fastest growing populations in Africa. With an average of 7.6 children born to each woman, the UN projects Niger’s population will more than triple from its current 20 million to 72 million by 2050.
The growth of the population also means social infrastructure is quickly consumed leaving the government in search of options to deal with the population boom.
“Niger is facing a massive demographic challenge. We have one of the highest rates of population growth in the world, we have the highest fertility rate in the the world and so it is important Niger receives the support to create the conditions for a demographic transition, to control demographic growth. Our aims are very ambitious in this regard and Germany is helping us attain these objectives,” said the Nigerien president, Mahamadou Issoufou.
But Niger’s problems go beyond just a rapid surge in its population. Frequent droughts have led to hunger, and low investment in education also means a dearth of skills.
“If your population is expanding so very quickly, it’s difficult to keep up and no matter how much more food one produces, no matter how many more tables of water one finds underground, no matter how many more school rooms one builds, if the population growth is faster than everything else I’ve just mentioned, the region is going backwards,” said Toby Lanzer, regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel.
Niger’s location in the largely unpoliced sands of the Sahara desert has also made it a draw for migrants who come from across Africa hoping to smuggle their way to a better life in Libya or Algeria or across the Mediterranean to Europe.
President Mahamadou Issoufou has meanwhile asked for help from Germany to help keep the country’s population growth of 3.9 percent, the highest in the world, in check.