A region’s population dynamics, including the size, distribution and composition of its population, influence its prospects for sustainable development. Virtually all development policies in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) cite the region’s rapid population growth, urbanization, and age structure as major challenges. These pressures hurt efforts to reduce poverty, ensure food security, preserve the environment, and improve education, employment, and health.

SSA’s population is growing more rapidly than other regions of the world. Rapid population growth and climate change are speeding up the region’s environmental degradation. This makes people more vulnerable to climate change impacts and undermines sustainable development on the continent. Development efforts in several countries in SSA are harmed by a combination of high rates of population growth, high projected declines in agricultural production and low resilience to climate change. We classify such countries as population and climate hotspots. In these hotspots, addressing population challenges will help increase resilience to climate change, and contribute to development goals such as better food and water security.

Despite the strong links between population and climate change, and their role in sustainable development, these issues are not a priority in broader development policies and strategies. Unfortunately, population, climate change and development are often addressed separately at policy and program levels.

This report calls on governments, donors, and civil society to invest more in population and climate change work, to address the two issues together in policies and programs,and to build the technical capacity to develop programs and research. Ensuring women in SSA who wish to avoid pregnancy have access to family planning can reduce population pressures and reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts. It can also help meet other development goals, including reducing poverty and maternal mortality, and improving education.