Emmanuel Macron is right to suggest that African women should have fewer children

By Nina Steele 

It is my belief that no issue should be off limits in the fight against poverty and if there was ever an issue that determined the fate of people, particularly in the developing world where opportunities are not aplenty, it is population growth. I am an African, Ivorian to be precise, and one of 7 children. My mother raised us pretty much on her own, on her meagre salary as a civil servant. It does not take much to guess that she struggled, and her struggles were made worse by the fact that unlike the West where families get some help from the state, the Ivory Coast has no such provisions. The bottom line as I have learnt too well is that, unless you are considerably well off, having too many children will make you poorer. It is as simple as that.

At the recent G20 summit in Germany, Mr Macron was asked ‘about the possibility of implementing a policy in Africa like America’s Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe after the Second World War’. To which he replied: “The problems Africa face today are completely different … and are ‘civilisational”. He went on to say that one of the main issues contributing to Africa’s problems in addition to issues of poor governance and corruption, among others, is the problem of overpopulation. He referred to the fact that African women having 7 or 8 children is considered the norm. His remarks led to condemnation in many quarters, with many seeing it as patronising and insulting. The fact that France is a former colonial power added insult to injury.

As a francophone by birth, I know too well what impact French foreign policy is having on its former colonies. Unlike Britain which by and large has left its former colonies alone to get on with their own affairs, France just won’t let go. French speaking Africa is still very much a subject of its former colonial power. France has its hand firmly on those countries including deciding who its leaders should be. It’s no secret that France would stop at nothing to have the leader it wants, generally one that implements policies that are beneficial to French businesses. All the leaders who have tried to break that long standing grip, have been swiftly removed through coups engineered by France. Because of this continued grip on its former colonies, there is deep seated resentment against France in those countries.

With that in mind, any signs of a French leader lecturing the continent on its affairs was always going to be received with anger. For example, how can France lecture on good governance when every time a transformational leader emerges and wants to do things differently by putting his country first, he is toppled through a French sponsored coup. Yes there is absolutely no disputing the fact that many of the problems on the continent have been caused by France’s foreign policies.

Having said that, Africans have to recognise that overpopulation and poverty go hand in hand. Refusing to make that correlation serves no one. It is estimated that: “Of the 2.37 billion increase in population expected worldwide by 2050, Africa alone will contribute 54%. By 2100, Africa will contribute 82% of total growth: 3.2 billion of the overall increase of 3.8 billion people. Under some projections, Nigeria will add more people to the world’s population by 2050 than any other country”.

To all the people having a go at Macron for daring to mention the impact of rapid population growth, I ask: what kind of future awaits all these people? The one thing the current migrant crisis has taught us is that, lack of opportunities is causing many young people from Africa to put their lives at risk in search of a better life in Europe. It is obvious that things will only get worse unless this population growth is curbed, and the sooner the leaders on the continent start making family planning a priority, the better it will be for everyone.

Emmanuel Maron G20 Summit 2017

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