The Demography of Sub-Saharan Africa from the 1950s to the 2000s

Demography of the World's Regions: Situation and Trends
A Survey of Changes and a Statistical Assessment
By Dominique Tabutin, Bruno Schoumaker, Mireille Rabenoro


This chronicle is focused on sub-Saharan Africa (48 nations, 730 million people) and includes both a summary of the major socio-demographic and health changes since the 1950s and a statistical report based on the most reliable recent data on each nation. Particular attention has been given to the size and structure of the population, fertility and its intermediate variables, nuptiality, mortality, child health, migration and population movements, urbanization and access to education. Even though Africa still has the most rapid growth and the youngest population in the world, many changes are in progress. They occur at different speed depending on the country, the region, and the type of residence. As a result, African demographic regimes are diversifying. One major trend is the decline of fertility that has been observed for Africa as a whole for the last fifteen years, with rapid declines in a few countries, but also stagnation in about fifteen others. The age at first marriage is increasing in most countries, but polygyny is resisting rather well. Adult and child mortality have decreased markedly over the last forty years, though at a different pace and with worrisome reversals of trends in recent times in the countries most affected by AIDS. Access to education, particularly for women, is still an issue. The overall situation in sub-Saharan Africa has improved since the 1950s or 1960s, but progress is slower than in other regions in the world and appears reversible or uncertain in the current context of economic crisis, poverty and the AIDS pandemic.

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