Posted on May 28, 2024

What Will Europe Look like in the Future?

Lionel Shriver, The Spectator, May 25, 2024

This year, several articles in mainstream papers have sounded the alarm that the global human fertility rate will soon cross below the point needed to keep the population constant. Anxiety that our species is about to die out seems a bit premature, given that we’re still predicted to add another three billion to the world population before levelling off. Furthermore, these reports always gloss over a key outlier because it undermines the case for our imminent extinction: Africa.

A leading reason that continental Europe is shifting to the political right is popular concern about mass immigration. So I’m putting Europeans and their short-sighted representatives on notice: you folks haven’t seen anything yet.

Forgive the blitz of arithmetic, but these numbers are eye-popping (and thanks to Paul Morland and Edward Paice of the Africa Research Institute and the UN population database). Regionally, Africa’s are the only population projections the UN has steadily been obliged to raise. In 1950, there were 200 million Africans, just over a third of the number of Europeans (550 million). Currently about 1.5 billion, Africa’s population should reach 2.5 billion by 2050 and almost four billion by 2100, when Africans will constitute about 40 per cent of our species, outnumbering Europeans six-to-one.

This is the UN’s ‘medium’ population estimate, which assumes Africa’s birth rate subsides to just below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. But the UN’s ‘high estimate’ envisages Africa’s total fertility rate (TFR) staying above 2.5 and the population rising to 5.4 billion by 2100. By then, some 43 per cent of the world’s under-18s would be African. Demographic momentum would likely ensure the continent’s population keeps growing into the next century.


Experts regard it as inevitable that as poor countries develop, the birth rate drops. But last year, Africa’s TFR was 4.2, sub-Saharan Africa’s 4.6. This fertility rate has barely changed for 70 years. Africa is not getting with the programme.


Are elevated birthrates simply due to inadequate provision of contraception? Probably not. For example, in West and Central Africa in 2015, women averaged 5.5 children. But they undershot their desired family size by half a child. They’d rather have had six. Most Africans don’t accidentally have big families. They want big families.

Some 42 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 15. (The same is true for 16 per cent of Europeans: our young are now outnumbered by our elderly.) Africa’s child population is growing faster than the ability to teach them (‘Low-quality teaching is a huge problem and getting worse,’ says the World Bank). Ethiopia’s wealth may have doubled in the past ten years (from a low base) but almost half its population remains illiterate and 40 per cent of its children still don’t complete even primary education.

Neither can the continent keep up with the demand for new jobs. As Paice says: ‘Between 2014 and 2018, almost 20 million young Nigerians sought to join the workforce, but only 3.5 million new jobs were created.’ Africa has the lowest workforce participation of any region in the world.


No one is planning for this. Me, I would scrap the entire asylum system as the relic of an earlier era without cheap international transportation, instant communication and generous welfare benefits, conceived when global population was a quarter of today’s. I’d also scrap the Refugee Convention, the ECHR and any other treaty or law that impedes enforcement of national borders. I’d stop government funding of interfering pro-migration NGOs. The alternative is to accept that Europe as we currently know it is culturally and economically finished. {snip}