Typically, the more developed a country, the lower the child mortality rates and fertility rates are, he said. This is because as countries develop and people live longer, healthier lives, parents can reasonably expect that their children will live well into adulthood, driving down the need for many children in hopes that some will live into adulthood.
Furthermore, as people become more educated, they learn to manage their own fertility better, and have jobs “where brains are often more useful than brawn,” reducing the economic need for having more children.
When rates of child mortality are considered, the fertility rates in most African countries are normal, Stone wrote.
“Adding in control variables for urbanization or dependence on agriculture or natural resources doesn’t change the story: African fertility looks fairly normal for its level of development,” he said, when compared with similar countries in Asia, which have slightly lower fertility rates, and countries in Latin America which have higher fertility rates.
Africa is also a large and varied continent, and fertility rates vary significantly between its countries, Stone noted.
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Furthermore, comparing fertility rates among developing countries also must take into account what kinds of family planning policies are being implemented in those countries, Stone said.
While Western groups like the Gates Foundation say that they want family planning policies in African countries to respect women’s freedom, at the same time they want the fertility rates in Africa to decline as dramatically as in countries such as China or India, which have implemented inhumane practices such as the “One Child” policy or forced sterilizations.
“In other words, Western donors need to get their story straight: do they want Africa to experience East-Asian style fertility declines, or do they want African countries to pursue democratically-compatible, rights-respecting population policies? You can’t have it both ways,” Stone noted.
In fact, Stone added, it is unclear why Western groups think they should get a say in African fertility rates at all.
“Western countries should have learned their lesson: it’s time to stop acting like African policy can be made from London or Paris or Seattle. Truth be told, Western organizations have no right, and no moral credibility, to step in and tell African women what they should or shouldn’t do with their bodies. We would be much better off looking for ways to solve our own fertility problems.”