The total fertility rate (FTR) in Botswana is experiencing a decline and is nearing the threshold. A new analysis suggests that this could have significant implications in terms of national demographics in the long term. In order for a country to maintain a stable population, it needs a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.1. At this rate a country is able to renew its population, which is regarded as the optimal level for stability. However if the TFR is greater than 2.1, it means the population will rise, and when it is less than 2.1, the population will decrease, though it may take some time since factors such as age structure and immigration have to be considered.
The Population Reference Bureau (PBR) which is responsible for analysing data and research, and conduct original research on population, health, and the environment says the TFR in Botswana is now at 2.5 children per woman. PBR also says Botswana is now the 5th lowest African country in terms of total fertility rate while the highest is Niger with an average birth rate of 7.1 children per woman.
Botswana’s fertility decline is primarily attributable to the increase in women using contraceptives. A 2020 United Nations (UN) report entitled World Fertility and Family Planning 2020 estimates that 40-60% of women in Botswana aged 15-49 use modern contraceptives. This statistic means Botswana has one of the highest percentage of women using modern contraceptives methods in Africa.
The PBR analysis also shows that Botswana has seen a downward trend in fertility rate from a high of 4.5 in 1990 to 2.5 in 2020. Estimates also show that by 2030 the country would be below the threshold of 2.1 by 2030.
If Botswana reaches the threshold of 2.1, assuming no extensive immigration or emigration occurs, this could have national policy implications. A Demographer, Masego Nthebolang says while policymakers have no need to be concerned yet about the steady downward trend in total fertility rate, she says there is need to be cautious and closely monitor this trend because populations with low fertility can fall in size at a very fast rate.
“Such a trend must be addressed at a particular time to avoid having a demographically unsustainable population,” she says adding that low fertility usually creates an age structure which results in a perfect momentum for future population decline. “Although the country is experiencing a decline in fertility rate, Botswana’s population will not shrink in the near-term. This is because there are still enough women having children to offset the number of deaths each year,” says Nthebolang.
When women give birth to 2.1 children and these children survive to the age of 15, it means the women would have replaced herself and her partner upon death.