China and India continue to be the world's most populous countries, by far, but at least they're actually not getting any more crowded. In fact, population growth in those nations has remained relatively steady for the past few decades.
As Jules Suzdaltsev reports in this Seeker Daily dispatch, most of the fastest growing countries in the world are now in Africa. In fact, the overall population of the entire continent is expected to double within 40 years to 2.5 billion. Given Africa's poverty rates, that's trouble.
Consider the dilemma of South Sudan, which became an independent country just five years ago. The nation's population has grown by 4 percent per year in that time, compared to a global growth rate of just over one percent per year. South Sudan has a shockingly high fertility rate of more than five births-per-woman, more than double the global average.
Only two percent of South Sudanese women use any kind of modern contraception, due to lack of access and cultural norms that discourage birth control. That's a problem all across Africa, although matters are improving in recent years. By 2050, a full quarter of the entire planet's population with be African.
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Outside of Africa, the small Middle Eastern nation of Oman is experiencing a different kind of population boom. In the last 25 years, Oman's population has more than doubled due to rising immigration from neighboring countries India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Oman's healthy economy has created so many new jobs that immigrants now make up nearly half of the country's population of four million people.
But the country with the fastest population growth -- by a huge margin -- is Lebanon, which registered a dangerously high rate of 10 percent in 2014. As with Oman, Lebanon's sudden growth can be attributed almost entirely to immigration. In this case, however, it's due to the flood of war refugees from nearby Syria, Palestine and Iraq. Refugees now account for more than a quarter of Lebanon's population, putting tremendous strain on the nation's economy and infrastructure.
For many countries, moderate population growth reflects a healthy economy and a functional society. But for less developed nations, a growing population means untenable demands on resources and infrastructure. As global population grows, the problems will become more severe for nations ill-equipped to handle them. And overall growth shows no sign of slowing down -- experts say global population will reach 10 billion by 2060.
-- Glenn McDonald
National Geographic: World Population Expected to Reach 9.7 Billion by 2050
The New Nation: South Sudan has Africa's highest population growth
Oman Sultanate: Demographics
New York Times: A Refugee Crisis in Lebanon Hides in Plain Sight