The latest revision of the UN Population Division’s World Population Prospects, released this summer, projects that total population will reach 10.9 billion by the end of the century. That’s an additional 3.7+ billion people by 2100. Strikingly, nearly all of this growth will occur in developing countries. And 64 percent will be concentrated in just 10 countries.
Why is this? More importantly, what does this mean for the people who live in these countries?
In eight of these nations—namely Nigeria, Tanzania, DRC, Niger, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia—an important driver of population growth is persistently high fertility. The remaining two countries accounting for the world’s increase are those with already large populations and high net migration (like the United States).
We know that fertility is determined by many factors, including contraceptive use. Women in each of these countries bear more than four children on average, and more than a quarter of married women in Tanzania, Ethiopia, DRC, Uganda, Kenya and Zambia want to delay or limit childbearing but lack contraception.
There’s no cause for alarm. But having so much future population growth concentrated in so few countries does mean that we need to make smart investments today so that all women can have the right to contraception and future families can thrive. Family planning is a cost-effective investment, and meeting the need for contraception can reduce the number of maternal and newborn deaths, improve resilience to climate change impacts, and reduce poverty. In other words, meeting women’s needs presents a tremendous opportunity for improving development prospects everywhere.