The United Nations’ 27th edition of the world population prospects indicator passed 8 billion on Tuesday — 11 years after it passed 7 billion.
The United Nations Population Fund, also known as UNFPA, marked the milestone at a conference in Abuja alongside development partners, including women’s groups and nonprofits.
Officials said the population growth, despite generally declining global fertility rates, is a result of improvements in medicine and public health leading to reduced mortality rates.
The U.N. said about 70 percent of the growth is in low and lower middle-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
The U.N. estimates that countries in sub-Saharan Africa will continue to grow and contribute more than half of the global population by 2050.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and currently occupies the sixth position globally. By 2050, the country is expected to become the third most-populated nation in the world.
‘An opportunity for the global community’
Population growth must correspond with economic growth and development, said Erika Goldson, the deputy country representative for Nigeria at the UNFPA.
“One of the things that concerns us as the U.N. is that this progress is not received equally across the board,” said Goldson. “There are some citizens within countries who are denied access to basic healthcare, and education, the whole overall quality of life is affected negatively. We see this as an opportunity for the global community to come together to see that 8 billion of us have a quality life.”
The U.N. predicts it will take another 15 years to reach the 9 billion global population mark, and that low and lower-middle-income countries such as Nigeria will account for 90 percent of the increase.
Demand grows for natural resources
Aminu Zakari, founder of the Center for Climate Change and one of the conference speakers, said authorities need to monitor how population growth impacts climate change.
“As this population increases, the quest for natural resources increases,” said Zakari. “I think we also need to start looking at our carbon footprint.”
Fertility rates have been declining steadily in Nigeria from 5.84 births per woman in 2010 to 5.25 in 2020, according to Statista. But that’s still high compared to the global average.
Nigeria is struggling to meet modern needs for contraception. Experts say the government needs $35 million annually to address family planning needs.
Earlier this year, President Muhammadu Buhari launched legislation targeting high fertility rates by expanding access to birth control.
The U.N. said government action to reduce fertility would do little to slow the pace of growth over the next fifty years but might cause an overall reduction in population in the coming half century.
In 2020, the global growth rate fell to under 1 percent per year for the first time since 1950.
U.N. officials and experts say unless fertility and rapid population growth rates are accompanied by sustainable economic growth and development, many people will continue to face challenges.