If demography is destiny, then the destiny of humanity is black. Over the next century, the flaccid geriatric cohorts of the West and exhausted Asian tigers will be no match for Africa’s burgeoning, youthful, and increasingly sophisticated population.
Africa is the fastest-growing region in the world, and the only one where population is expected to more than double over the next few decades. The total population of every other region will either peak or decline by mid-century, according to the projections of UN demographers.
Africa’s global share of economic power and political influence will likely grow accordingly. Speculators increasingly turn to Africa to reap returns from dynamic investments, and the world’s power players are all vying for influence in the region.
Understandably, the international population and reproductive health establishment, which was founded in the twentieth century by eugenicists and Nazi sympathizers to prevent precisely this kind of scenario, is worried sick. It’s almost as though Hitler’s nightmare were becoming reality. And it is why after successfully taming the population growth of Asia by the end of the last century, they are now aggressively targeting Africa, the last bastion of human fertility.
A New Kind of Population Control
The population establishment’s campaign to tame Africa’s growth is not the garden-variety population control campaign of the past. The political pressure and the financial expenditures targeted at Africans to bring their fertility in line with the rest of the world’s is unprecedented and is taking place on a scale previously unimaginable. But what is most astonishing is how aggressive and fanatical the campaigns in Africa are.
The goals of the population control movement there include indoctrinating children on sexuality in preschool, legalizing prostitution, promoting social acceptance of homosexuality, lowering the age of consent to sex, and, most importantly, enabling access to abortion and contraception for children without parental consent. Basically, they are promoting any policy that will help detach sex from marriage and children.
These radical components of the sexual revolution, once entrusted to fringe groups on the peripheries of norm-setting international institutions, have become routine recommendations of the highly respected theoreticians of the population and reproductive health establishment and even once-revered United Nations agencies, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization.
This is a sharp departure from the normal approach of the population control movement. In the twentieth century it was cunning and deceitful. Social engineers understood they must try to change the way people in developing countries think about sex and fertility gradually, using their own culture and morality. They learned early on to market their agenda as respectable and socially responsible, to make low fertility part of the very fabric of every country’s culture and public life.
They did not antagonize cultures, religions, and sovereign states. They preached the gospel of sustainability and social responsibility, and got the world’s major religious institutions to help them, beginning with the Lambeth Conference. They presented themselves as interested in the health of women. They decried the burden of a large family and glorified the benefits of birth control. Early efforts were hilariously immortalized in a scene of the 1950 movie “Cheaper by the Dozen,” in which an unlucky Planned Parenthood canvasser gets joyfully laughed away by a family with twelve children. Sadly, America did not follow the Gilbreth family.
Today population control is wholly established and respectable not just in the United States but everywhere in the world. Planned Parenthood is a household name at UN headquarters, where it is referred to as an “apex” non-governmental organization, with a seat at every important negotiation. Other powerful foundations, think tanks, international organizations, academics, political celebrities and a global cadre of population, environmental, and women’s organizations push this agenda internationally. The US Congress continues to dutifully disburse hundreds of millions of dollars every year to help bankroll them. They meet annually at the UN Commission on Population and Development, ongoing this week in New York.
The population gospel is diligently preached in season and out of season, and unto the ends of the earth. In universities across the world, “population” and “reproductive health” are in the titles of prestigious endowed chairs in medicine and demography who propagate it. It is so ubiquitous among international elites that any serious development initiative necessarily always includes population control elements. There is hardly a UN negotiation in which “sexual and reproductive health” is not considered topical. The boilerplate in just about every World Bank agreement with developing countries includes population control.
The messaging is at times subliminal, and at others more direct. In Africa, the latest craze is to teach farmers in rural areas sustainable farming alongside sustainable family sizing. Fishermen are taught to preserve fish stocks by reducing the number of children they have. And when electricity is brought to a village, they explain to villagers how they can pay less for electricity by having fewer children.
Transforming African Cultures
This stealth approach has been incredibly successful in changing sexual mores and lowering fertility worldwide. Even in the Middle East and North Africa, long-feared by some as the origins of an impending massive Islamic migration to Europe, declining fertility is surprising demographers.
But now, the population establishment is waging a new kind of aggressive and dirty war on sub-Saharan Africa. Not that their fertility isn’t declining rapidly with urbanization and industrialization. It is—just not fast enough. The population establishment wants to cement its gains and accelerate present downward fertility momentum to prevent any reverse trends in the future. African families still desire to have more children than families anywhere else in the world.
Given this stubbornly high fertility and conservative social mores, the only way to reach a stable population and achieve a “sustainable” global utopia is to transform African societies. So it is no longer just a matter of persuading women to use contraception, though this remains a major focus of population control campaigns. It is about “transforming” social norms, a favorite term in UN resolutions, hence the aggressively fanatical campaigns.
And there is also a generational change in the population establishment that has made shocking policies more acceptable. New generations of international bureaucrats and social engineers are brutish and culturally illiterate. Many were brought up fatherless in sexually decadent cultures and were taught cultural Marxism in universities; they are wholly and utterly ignorant of all culture, let alone African culture. Their lack of diplomatic tact in international negotiations is frequently on display at UN headquarters.
Understandably, Africans resist this imposition, though inconsistently and erratically at times. Their resistance has eroded and weakened over the past two decades as the sexual revolution has made inroads in Africa through western influence. Annual global aid expenditures on population policies have reached over $12 billion in recent years, and well over half of that money is spent on Africa, much of it on abortion, condoms, and hormonal contraceptives. That does not even include the many untraceable billions spent on anti-natalist components of development policies ranging from infrastructure to farming, fishing, and education—areas that seemingly have nothing to do with contraception.
Undermining African Self-Government
These investments harm Africa’s fragile governments. When it comes to social policy, many African nations are entirely beholden to their foreign “partners.” That is what donors and aid recipient countries ironically like to call themselves, even though they act more like colonial overlords.
These countries have well-funded and staffed gender and reproductive health ministries to implement World Bank commitments and the recommendations of United Nations agencies like UN Women and the UN Population Fund. Meanwhile, their fiscal systems are in tatters, and law enforcement is corrupt. Their health systems lie in ruins, and women die in childbirth. Contraception is subsidized and widely available everywhere in the African colonies, according to DHS surveys. But access to antibiotics and life-saving modern medicines is scarce, as are trained doctors and nurses.
My colleague Rebecca Oas has thoroughly debunked the fictitious notion of “unmet need for contraception” that the reproductive health establishment uses to drum up political and financial support. The only ones really benefitting from these investments are the hundreds of Planned Parenthood affiliates and UN satellite organizations who busy themselves transplanting the sexual revolution to Africa. Indeed, donors are not interested in improving the lives of Africans, at least in ways that Africans themselves see as improvements. Instead, they are socially engineering African culture to make it more palatable to European bureaucrats.
This is the new colonialism that Pope Francis has denounced so frequently in the course of his pontificate, and that is sadly rarely reported in the mainstream media. The colonies increasingly rubberstamp whatever programming keeps the money flowing. Donors even have a say in the positions these countries take at UN headquarters. Policies that would have a net negative effect on fertility are lavishly funded compared to ones that are life-saving, and they continue to receive disproportionate international political attention. The social engineers have become social imperialists.
Cause for Hope: Obianuju Ekeocha
Pro-life activist Obianuju Ekeocha addresses these realities in her new book, Target Africa: Ideological Neocolonialism in the Twenty-First Century. The book is long overdue. She tells the story of population control in Africa in recent years in the first person, with that raw visceral eloquence that her many thousands of followers on Twitter have become accustomed to. She does an excellent job of tying together the threads of multilateral cooperation, African politics, and population control ideology. Although these linkages are often complex, murky, and consummated in backroom deals, her underlying narrative is simple and effective.
Because Ekeocha was born and bred in Africa, she is able to pierce through the paternalistic doublespeak of wealthy donor countries, billionaire philanthropists, and United Nations bureaucrats as no white man or woman ever could. She has seen and experienced the precariousness of life in Africa firsthand: the misleading information about condoms that has led to the ravaging scourge of HIV/AIDS in Africa, the suppression of messaging about abstinence and fidelity, and the billions of dollars flowing to Africa through Bill and Melinda Gates’s “family planning crusade.” She has seen it and lived it.
And she is justifiably angered that the highest global health priority of billionaire philanthropists, the US Congress, and other wealthy governments is to provide abortion, condoms, and contraception. Ekeocha denounces Africa’s addiction to aid and the sexual agenda of donors and calls on Africans to break their “partnership” with their neocolonial masters, if that is what it takes to protect the family and human dignity in Africa. If Africans want a real shot at charting their own path to development and authentic self-government, they would do well to follow Ekeocha’s advice. And in the long run it would benefit us all.
Ekeocha’s book and her work with Culture of Life Africa, the pro-life organization she founded, is essential for the pro-life cause more broadly. Aside from the importance of fighting ideological neocolonialism, building up the pro-life movement in Africa is essential given how politically and economically influential Africa is likely to become over the next century. Ekeocha is doing this admirably and effectively on a shoestring budget.
The population control establishment is aggressive in Africa because there is only a limited window of opportunity to change the social norms of the region. That window is closing fast, as the population and reproductive health establishment knows all too well. Outside Africa, the value of life is increasing exponentially as populations age and fertility declines. Pro-natalist policies are now being studied and implemented by governments throughout Europe and Asia. Abortion laws are being tightened even in Russia, where it first became legal 100 years ago.
It is only a matter of time before the international predilection for low fertility is reversed. The pro-life movement must be prepared to capitalize on this. When it happens, we must make sure pro-natalism is not just another form of statist population control to increase fertility and birthrates based on materialistic reasoning, but rooted in a consistent ethic of life based on the inherent value and dignity of life. Ekeocha’s dynamic work is laying the groundwork for the pro-life movement to do this in Africa.
Stefano Gennarini is the Director of Legal Studies at the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) in New York. He tweets as @prolifeadvocate. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of C-Fam.