The world’s population is projected to hit an estimated eight billion people on Tuesday, according to the United Nations, with much of the growth coming from developing nations in Africa.
Among them is Nigeria and over the next three decades the West African nation’s population is expected to soar even more: from 216 million this year to 375 million, the UN says.
That will make Nigeria the fourth-most populous country in the world after India, China and the United States.
“We are already overstretching what we have — the housing, roads, the hospitals, schools. Everything is overstretched,” said Gyang Dalyop, an urban planning and development consultant in Nigeria.
The UN’s Day of 8 Billion milestone on Tuesday is more symbolic than precise, officials are careful to note in a wide-ranging report released over the summer that makes some staggering projections.
Reducing inequality while focusing on adapting and mitigating climate change should be where our policy makers’ focus should be
Dr Srinath Reddy, Public Health Foundation of India
The upward trend threatens to leave even more people in developing countries further behind, as governments struggle to provide enough classrooms and jobs for a rapidly growing number of youth, and food insecurity becomes an even more urgent problem.
Nigeria is among eight countries the UN says will account for more than half the world’s population growth between now and 2050 — along with fellow African nations Congo, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
“The population in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double between 2022 and 2050, putting additional pressure on already strained resources and challenging policies aimed to reduce poverty and inequalities,” the UN report said.
Projected population by 2100
It projected the world’s population will reach around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100.
Other countries with the fastest growing populations are Egypt, Pakistan, the Philippines and India, which is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation next year.
Rapid population growth also means more people vying for scarce water resources and leaves more families facing hunger as climate change increasingly impacts crop production in many parts of the world.
“There is also a greater pressure on the environment, increasing the challenges to food security that is also compounded by climate change,” said Dr Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.
“Reducing inequality while focusing on adapting and mitigating climate change should be where our policy makers’ focus should be.”
Experts say the bigger threat to the environment is consumption, which is highest in developed countries not undergoing big population increases.
World Population 8 Billion
People on Ipanema beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday. The world’s population is projected to hit an estimated eight billion people on Tuesday, according to a United Nations projection (Bruna Prado/AP/PA)
“Global evidence shows that a small portion of the world’s people use most of the Earth’s resources and produce most of its greenhouse gas emissions,” said Poornima Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India.
“Over the past 25 years, the richest 10% of the global population has been responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions.”
According to the UN, the population in sub-Saharan Africa is growing at 2.5% per year — more than three times the global average. Women in sub-Saharan Africa on average have 4.6 births, twice the current global average of 2.3.
Population is not the problem, the way we consume is the problem — let’s change our consumption patterns
Charles Kenny, Centre for Global Development
Families become larger when women start having children early, and 4 out of 10 girls in Africa marry before they turn 18, according to UN figures. The rate of teen pregnancy on the continent is the highest in the world — about half of the children born last year to mothers under 20 worldwide were in sub-Saharan Africa.
Any effort to reduce family size now would come too late to significantly slow the 2050 growth projections, the UN said. About two-thirds of it “will be driven by the momentum of past growth”.
“Such growth would occur even if childbearing in today’s high-fertility countries were to fall immediately to around two births per woman,” the report found.
Even as populations soar in some countries, the UN says rates are expected to drop by 1% or more in 61 nations.
The US population is now around 333 million, according to US Census Bureau data. The population growth rate in 2021 was just 0.1%, the lowest since the country was founded.
COP27 Climate Population
People gather in Mumbai, India (Rafiq Maqbool/AP/PA)
“Going forward, we’re going to have slower growth — the question is, how slow?” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “The real wild card for the US and many other developed countries is immigration.”
Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development in Washington, says environmental concerns surrounding the eight billion mark should focus on consumption, particularly in developed countries.
“Population is not the problem, the way we consume is the problem — let’s change our consumption patterns,” he said