There’s much news in this startling piece on unexpected global demographic trends in The Wilson Quarterly. It suggests that a possible discontinuity in world affairs may soon arrive in the demographics of Africa. The short story:
The canonical Muslim countries of today, and the Muslim populations in Europe, are rapidly losing fertility. There will be less Muslims in these classical centers of Islam. At the same because of immigration from Eastern Europe, Old Europe is rebounding with raised fertility rates.
But Africa is going monotheist. It will become both the center of Islam’s population and Christianity’s.
This rich piece has such details as:
Iran is experiencing what may be one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in human history. Thirty years ago, after the shah had been driven into exile and the Islamic Republic was being established, the fertility rate was 6.5. By the turn of the century, it had dropped to 2.2. Today, at 1.7, it has collapsed to European levels.
One striking implication of this growth is that there will be a great religious revolution, as Africa becomes the home of monotheism. By midcentury, sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be the demographic center of Islam, home to as many Muslims as Asia and to far more than inhabit the Middle East. Christianity will also feel the effects of Africa’s growth. By 2025, there will be as many Christians in sub- Saharan Africa— some 640 million— as in South America. By 2050, it is almost certain that most of the world’s Christians will live in Africa. As Kenyan scholar John Mbiti writes, “The centers of the church’s universality [are] no longer in Geneva, Rome, Athens, Paris, London, New York, but Kinshasa, Buenos Aires, Addis Ababa, and Manila.”
Catholic church in Dogon, Mali, by Mark Moxon.
The article also knocks down the conventional wisdom that Chinese will remain the most populous group in the near future.
At the turn of this century, the conventional wisdom among demographers was that the population of Europe was in precipitous decline, the Islamic world was in the grip of a population explosion, and Africa’s population faced devastation by HIV/AIDS. Only a handful of scholars questioned the idea that the Chinese would outnumber all other groups for decades or even centuries to come. In fact, however, the latest UN projections suggest that China’s population, now 1.3 billion, will increase slowly through 2030 but may then be reduced to half that number by the end of the century.