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Washington, D.C., World Bank, 1986 Aug. x, 102 p.This report provides a comprehensive assessment of the magnitude and underlying causes of Africa's rapid population growth and suggests a framework to help African leaders design policies to address this problem. The report has 3 themes. The 1st theme is that rapid population growth in Africa is slowing economic development and reducing the possibility of raising living standards. Africa's population growth rate, the highest in the world, has accelerated from an average of 2.8%/year in 1970-82 to 3.1%/year in 1985. Population growth is expected to continue to rise for at least another 5-10 years. In addition to undermining economic growth and per capita income growth, the population explosion implies higher child and maternal morbidity and mortality, further degradation of the natural environment, constraints on expanding education and health care services, and falling wages. A comprehensive population policy in African countries must include efforts both to slow this growth and to cope with its consequences. A 2nd theme is one of cautious hope arising from recent indications of a change in ideas and behavior regarding fertility. More and more African governments are expressing alarm about population growth and are supporting family planning measures. Improvements in women's status, especially in female education, are occurring and can be expected to have a fertility reducing effect. Increased availability and accessibility of family planning services could raise Africa's contraceptive prevalence rate from its current level of 3-4% to 25% in the next decade. The 3rd theme is that strategic reorientation of the direction and nature of government involvement in the area of population policy is required. Although governments should not seek to be the only provider of family planning services, they must take the lead in generating a climate of legitimacy for family planning. An increase in external assistance will be necessary if family planning is to become a realistic option for Africans.