Demographic Dynamics: Contraceptive Boom Forthcoming?

According to UNICEF, more than half of the world’s children (<18 years) in 2100 will be African, up from a current 25%.  A recent Economist article that cited the research notes that “this would be one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in history.”  By 2050, African may have more than 1 billion people under the age of 18…and this projection embeds two very suspect assumptions: consistent child-mortality rates and declining fertility rates.

What if child-mortality rates improve, as seems likely given improving healthcare access and rapidly developing infrastructure? More children. And what if fertility rates don’t decline for cultural reasons? Many more children.

The number of children an African woman is currently expected to have in her lifetime is 4.7; this compares to an Asian woman’s expected 1.6 children. The fertility rate that is generally believed to maintain a population over time is 2-2.1 children per woman. What this means is that the world is highly likely to be increasingly African.

So what? There are two categories of questions that I believe are worthy of asking, given these dynamics:

1) What if the UN Population Division were severely under-estimating global population? Might it be that the planet’s need to feed 9 billion people gets accelerated? How might this affect the demand for food, fuel, and other consumables?

2) Perhaps these projections are able to generate a trajectory-altering response from policymakers and businesses alike… and pardon the pun, but is it not conceivable that contraceptives are the next hot growth industry? Might America’s own Church & Dwight (NYSE: CHD), maker of Trojan condoms, be one of the biggest beneficiaries?

As I often say, there are very few certainties in life and business, but demographics offer a lens through which to glimpse an element of the future. Population dynamics have global implications and affect businesses in virtually every industry. Demographic dots are worth connecting!

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