“Slow Fertility Transition In Sub-Saharan Africa: What Implications For Europe’s Development Aid And Migration Policies?”

Luigi Bonatti, Lorenza Alexandra Lorenzetti

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The point of departure for this essay is the existing literature stressing the high fertility rate that-in spite of the remarkable decline in infant mortality-still characterizes Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), whose anomalously slow demographic transition does not seem to replicate the experience of other regions of the developing world. It emerges from this discussion that socioeconomic and cultural factors reinforce each other in determining this phenomenon, thus making plausible that the choices concerning the number of offsprings are also the result of a specific "Africa effect", associated to pronatalist social norms and to the peculiar structure of the African family. We then assess the possibility that SSA can fully enjoy the benefits of the so-called demographic dividend: we expressed a note of scepticism about this possibility, based on the unsatisfactory past performance of both the agricultural and the manufacturing sector in most SSA countries, and on the pattern of urbanization-dubbed "urbanization without growth"-that has emerged in a period of rapid increase in the number of people living in SSA cities. We also explore two channels through which the speed at which SSA's demographic transition is likely to take place has important consequences for the rest of the world: climate change and migration. In particular, we state that the more rapid growth of income per capita that the acceleration of the demographic transition may bring about in SSA is not going in the short-to-medium run to reduce its migration pressure on other regions of the world (and on Europe in particular). This is because-consistently with the "mobility transition" theory and the related crosscountry evidence-we claim that a higher income per capita will raise both Africans' aspirations and capabilities to migrate overseas. It follows from the latter conclusion that international development aid-even if effective-cannot reduce SSA migration pressure on Europe in the predictable future (in contrast with what most commentators and politicians keep claiming). This does not mean, however, that Europe should not be committed to assist and support socio-economic development in SSA. It may rather imply a sort of decoupling between advanced economies' strategies concerning development aid to SSA and their migration policies. Hence, we select three objectives to which the advanced economies should give priority if they want to support SSA's development: fertility reduction, rapid productivity gains in agriculture, and transformation of urban agglomerations in dynamic drivers of growth. Finally, we propose a comprehensive research agenda aimed at investigating the medium to long-term effects of massive SSA migration to Southern Europe.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteEssays in honor of Luigi Campiglio
EditorMaurizio Baussola, Carlo Bellavite Pellegrini Marco Vivarelli
Numero di pagine33
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2017


  • demographic transition, development process, informal sector, dualistic labor market, fertility rate.


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