West African population, 1950-2050
Demographic trends in numbers: Over the past three decades, the population of West Africa has more than doubled. Every year, ten million children are born and another ten million children are of age to attend school. Education, health, access to drinking water, food, jobs and the environment are all challenges made even more difficult by high population growth. In 2015, the population of West Africa exceeded 370 million people. To project the population size in the years leading up to 2050, the United Nations uses four projection scenarios that differ only in the total fertility rate used. The most commonly used scenario is the average fertility rate. In West Africa, the difference between the average rate and the lowest growth scenario (anticipating a sharp decline in fertility) is about 70 million people. It is this scenario that should be the benchmark for development policies. The goal is less to limit the growth in the number of inhabitants, than it is to reduce the proportion of very young people within the total population. At the end of the last century, children aged 0-14 years, accounted for 45% of the population. If fertility declines rapidly, in 35 years, that category will be no more than 32% of the population. During the phase of demographic transition marked by declines in fertility, the decrease in the number of dependent persons per active person frees up the ability of people to save and invest productively, a key driver of strong, sustainable growth.