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POPULI. 1986; 13(2):4-19.In the early 1970s the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) provided major support for censuses in Sub-Saharan Africa because of the paucity of population data. The Fund then increasingly supported studies that clarified the relation between population and development, promoted awareness of population issues, and provided the foundation on which national population policies could be built. Recently the expanded interest in and demand for family planning services, in the context of maternal-child health care, have received an increasing share of UNFPA allocations. The Fund also places great importance on projects that contribute to the development of Africa's human resources. Most African leaders have devoted increasing interest and commitment to population issues signalling an emerging consensus that population is a major African issue, deserving of urgent attention. Although awareness among African leaders has risen dramatically in recent years, the formulation and implementation of population policies is still at an incipient stage and many obstacles remain to be overcome: low level of resources for socioeconomic development, lack of infrastructure, inadequate data and the dearth of trained manpower. Declining mortality rates and continuing high fertility rates are largely responsible for the surge in the African population growth rate in the 1970s and 1980s. Rates of economic growth and per capita food production are low and in some cases decreasing. To the extent that the population factor plays a role in determining the region's future, it should be an integral part of socioeconomic development plans. In accordance with the approach suggested in the World Population Plan of Action, UNFPA works with African governments on the wide variety of population issues the countries themselves perceive as important.