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Women in Botswana are choosing to have fewer children, hopefully setting an example for the rest of Africa

By Nina Steele 

Childfree Nigerian womanI have never been to Botswana. Yet I have felt an affinity with the country ever since I watched the BBC TV series ‘The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’, which was set there. The show was an adaptation of a series of novels of the same name. I considered the show to be groundbreaking because of its female lead, on a continent where men still call the shots. So the news that fertility rates have been steadily on the decline in Botswana, as a result of women choosing to have fewer children, is in line with the show’s message of female empowerment.

With the population of Africa expected to more than double by 2050, it is refreshing to hear of an African country which is deliberately choosing to buck that trend. While women in Botswana used to give birth on average to 7 children, back in the 1960s, today, that number is down to 2 children per woman, on average. This dramatic drop in fertility rates is to be celebrated, for anyone who believes that overpopulation is one of the greatest threats of our times.

The changes are being attributed to a countrywide programme that makes it easier for women to access contraception and learn about family planning in general. The fact that more and more women are getting an education is also cited as a contributing factor.

The implications of a decline in fertility rates for Botswana are huge. For one thing, fewer people means more opportunities to go around for those of working age. Also, giving women control over their fertility can only be a good thing, because it will dramatically reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and all the social and financial issues that come with it.

Those of us from the developing world understand that in many cases, women would choose to have fewer children, if given the chance. Which is why it is so important for governments in Africa and other parts of the developing world to take the lead on this issue. Overpopulation is too great a threat to world peace and stability for things to be left to individuals alone.

As the case of Botswana shows, rampant population growth is not inevitable. As it currently stands, most governments in Africa seem to believe that ignoring the issue is the best course of action. Once again, tradition is being allowed to take precedence over common sense. If nothing is done and as predicted, the population of Africa more than doubles by 2050, then God helps us all.

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