Let’s define low fertility as below 2 babies per woman, moderate fertility as 2 to 4, and high fertility as more than 4. In 1970, there were two regions of the world with low or moderate fertility and five regions with high total fertility rates. Sub-Saharan Africa had the second highest fertility, but it was hardly exceptional in 1970.
Today, six regions have low or moderate fertility, while sub-Saharan Africa is alone with high fertility.
Above is Google’s graph of World Bank estimates of total fertility rates (i.e., babies per woman) showing how most of the major regions of the world have converged near replacement fertility (although Middle East & North Africa seems to have stopped in this century) … except for Sub-Saharan Africa, which is just barely below 5 babies per woman.
While the Sub-Saharan fertility at least is trending down, it’s important to note that it usually takes about 40 or 50 years after fertility hits replacement level for the population to stop growing. That’s why the U.N. forecasts that the African population will keep going up up up to 4 billion by 2100.
The good news is that Africa ought to be able to accomplish what poor countries in the rest of the world have largely managed to do: start seeing some light at the end of the population explosion tunnel.
The bad news is that it seems kind of racist to mention that high African fertility is a huge problem.