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Jeffrey Sachs advocates three-child policy to stem Nigeria's population growth

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Jeffrey Sachs, the American economist famous for such books as The End of Poverty, currently serves as special adviser to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Ban visited Nigeria this week, and Sachs commented on Nigeria’s population growth. Nigeria’s population currently stands at around 160 million, and some estimates project that Nigeria could have over 700 million people by 2100, placing it third in population behind China and India. Sachs has a solution in mind:

“I am really scared about population explosion in Nigeria. It is not healthy. Nigeria should work towards attaining a maximum of three children per family,” Sachs told AFP on the margins of a presidential interactive meeting with key members of the business community.

He told the meeting earlier that an increased annual economic growth rate from the current seven percent, encouragement of integrated development in economy, agriculture, urban and rural sectors, provision of a good health system, education, power, railway, could see the country become one of the most important economies in the 21st century.

The BBC quotes a Nigerian family planning expert who suggests that the three child proposal is not feasible:

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Isaac Ogo pointed to the tradition of polygamy and the belief that the children were seen as a “gift from God” in a male-dominated society.

[...]

Mr Ogo, from the Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria, agrees with the goal but says it will be hard to change the views of many Nigerians.

He says Nigeria is a “high birth, high death” society where many people think: “I need to have as much children as I want, as I don’t know which will survive.”

What do you think? Should the Nigerian government follow Sachs’ proposal? Would it work?

[Update]:

Elizabeth Dickinson responds at her blog:

This is a classic case of looking at the symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. Why is fertility so high in Nigeria? Because there is no access to contraceptives, because women’s healthcare is practically non-existent, because women often have no choice about when and whether to have sex, and because child mortality is so high that it’s not uncommon for kids to die before they ever reach the age of five. Focus on the healthcare and the structural issues — and start providing a lot more free contraceptives and a lot of public health education — and the population issue just might resolve itself.

Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.