Causes for Overpopulation in South Africa (2023)

According to a study performed in 2022 by the Department of Statistics of South Africa, the nation’s population has grown substantially in recent years. 

There is a combination of factors (regional, societal and cultural) to consider as the underlying causes of the nation’s overpopulation.

The main causes for overpopulation in South Africa can be linked back to 5 main themes that we will look at further in this post.

These themes include an increase in life expectancy, immigration, higher quality of living, and inadequate access to contraceptives and family planning education.

What is Overpopulation? – Short Answer

Overpopulation is defined as an area too populated to sustain the people.
Overpopulation refers to a population that cannot be supported with basic necessities such as shelter and nutrition.

Overpopulation is typically defined as when the population exceeds the limits and causes local resources to fail to sustain the population regarding shelter, nutrition, etc. 

Overpopulation as a term was first coined as such by economist Thomas Malthus in the 17th century.

His theories have been much criticized since.

Read More: Environmental Degradation Examples. Discover what environmental degradation is and what it means for the planet.

What are the Effects of Overpopulation?

Thomas Malthus alleged that a potentially doomsday situation could result from the overconsumption of resources that cannot be sustained to support the population.

Since this is the case, we will seek to uncover the details as to why South Africa in particular is considered to be overpopulated and what factors have been considered.

Why is South Africa so Heavily Populated?

South Africa's population exceeds 60 million.
One reason South Africa is so heavily populated is because of the lack of contraceptives and family resources.

The Department of Statistics of South Africa has recorded an increase in population growth year over year from 2002 to 2022.

They also determined that by the end of June 2022, the country will have a population of around 60.6 million.

A Day in the Life of Johannesburg

In the following video, the vlogger portrays life as it really is in South Africa’s most populated city of Johannesburg.

In it, he shows what it is like to take a ride and walk around the city to see the various sights such as Soweto Township.

What are the Main Causes of Overpopulation?

For most places, the main causes of overpopulation are considered to be poverty, lack of contraception, and regional conflicts.

From 2021 to 2022, the South Africa Department of Statistics saw an increase in life expectancy to 61.8 years old, which was over a year longer than the previous average.

How Does Migration Lead to an Increase in Population?

In regards to individuals living in the region, immigration is considered to be another heavy contributor to the nation’s overpopulation. 

Especially immigration from bordering countries that are experiencing unrest.

The bordering nation of Zimbabwe, for example, has experienced rapidly deteriorating economic conditions since 2009.

Does Zimbabwe Have a Strong Economy?

Around 2009, South Africa was the new home to about 227,000 Zimbabweans due to their nation’s economic crisis.

The Zimbabwean dollar collapsed in 2008-2009 when the government mostly abandoned the national currency in favor of a variety of foreign currencies.

This change consisted primarily of the US dollar.

When Did the Zimbabwe Currency Collapse?

The strategy to mostly abandon the national currency helped until 2015 when the nation experienced a US dollar shortage.

This crisis prompted the government to issue bonds but black market speculation of the bonds rapidly reduced their value. 

The new Zimbabwean administration that took over the country in a 2017 coup has still not produced the desired economic results.

What is Poverty like in Zimbabwe?

The average salary of a Zimbabwe citizen is about $253 dollars a month with unemployment at an all-time high.

All of the above factors for Zimbabwe have led to a mass migration of its citizens to South Africa, which has over 4 million people considered immigrants in South Africa.

What is the Quality of Life in South Africa?

A higher quality of life is one of the main reasons that South Africa is considered the new home of many people immigrating from other countries in the African continent. 

This can largely be attributed to a more industrialized economy and a stable system of government.

How Does Political Stability Affect Economic Development?

The political stability of South Africa also brought reconstruction of the nation’s infrastructure.

This reconstruction helped develop economic ties which saw further investment and economic growth.

From the apartheid elections in 1994 until 2016, South Africa experienced around 18 billion Rand in investment growth.

Because of this, the country’s government was able to provide more clean water and housing to its citizens and other infrastructure growth.

Family Planning and Contraceptives in South Africa

Family planning is an important part of population stability.
Family Planning and contraceptives in South Africa will create a more manageable population.

Another contributing factor to South Africa’s overpopulation is the lack of access to family planning products or contraceptives.

There is also problematic messaging and education for residents, especially in rural and suburban areas.

In 2017, a study was performed in the country’s region of KwaZulu-Natal for a public health journal that tries to explain the adverse effects of the lack of contraceptives.

Obtaining Access to Contraceptives in Rural South Africa

Researchers found, in many cases, surveyed participants felt overwhelmed and found it challenging to get contraceptives from the government’s family planning program.

Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as just bringing in more contraceptives to rural and suburban areas. 

Cultural and Societal Considerations of Family Planning

Focus groups from the same study discovered that there were many cultural, religious, and societal reasons for not using contraceptives.

Likewise, some of the reasons for avoiding contraceptives did not appear to have straightforward solutions.

How Can Overpopulation Be Controlled?

Many studied participants also expressed a desire to integrate the modern methods of contraceptives with the traditional methods:

  • Abstinence
  • Cultural rites of passage
  • Testing of female virginity, known as ukuhlolwa in Zulu culture
  • Thigh-sex, or Ukusoma, was practiced by the Zulu historically

Many of the current elders claim the younger generation is either unaware of or does not really practice Ukusoma now, but it is a traditional form of abstinence.

While study participants agreed that sexual education was important, access to education was quite scarce.

Is Sex Ed Mandatory in South Africa?

In traditional Zulu culture, the discussion of sex is considered taboo.

In fact, most discussions about family planning or birth control methods tend to only occur after it is too late.

So, sexual education is both not considered mandatory in rural parts of South Africa, but also even discouraged.

Family Planning in South Africa

In addition to the lack of contraceptives, the messaging surrounding family planning is also problematic in the KwaZulu-Natal regions

The same study found the following differences between rural and suburban areas:

  • Regarding condom use in suburban areas, positive messaging is usually transmitted from parents to sons.
  • In rural areas, messaging about contraceptives tends to be non-existent or only after a pregnancy or birth has occurred.

Religious Considerations in Rural South Africa

The study also reveals there appears to be a misalignment of views between churches, congregations, and the government’s family planning messaging on condom use.

The church-goers say complete abstinence is best in following religious/moral law.

This stance often puts them at odds with the government as congregations feel the government is implying citizens should have sex safely, rather than perform abstinence.

Are Contraceptives Supplied to the Right Places?

It has also been brought up by church-goers that, even though the government supplied condoms for free, they are often in places such as bars.

This is problematic because a highly religious or traditional individual is not likely to frequent them, thus not getting access to contraceptives. 

Who is to Blame for Not Using Contraceptives?

Lastly, there are blame games happening between genders in the nation about the use of condoms.

For example, women blame men for not using contraceptives because the men feel like it is “eating a wrapped sweet” and that intercourse is generally less pleasurable.

Men also blame women for not wanting to use contraceptives because they allege:

  • Women want to get pregnant to receive child grant money from the government.
  • Women tell men it is too painful and uncomfortable to use contraceptive products during intercourse.

Are Condoms to Blame for Overpopulation?

South African men in this study have also claimed that condoms themselves were to blame for breaking during intercourse and therefore considered them unreliable.

Based on these findings, it may be a better course of action for the government to implement consistent family planning messaging.

For this consistent family planning messaging to be effective, it must also take into account a true understanding of the locale’s culture, religion, and moral views.

What are the Solutions to Overpopulation?

There is a myriad of solutions to overpopulation.

Some of them are already being attempted currently by the South African government and its citizens. 

Hopefully, time will change the more conservative opposition to using contraceptives and family planning in general.

Clashing of Conservative Outlook and Secular Government Initiatives

Lastly, making contraceptives accessible in more appropriate places would help the rural South African populace to use them without feeling stigmatized or alienated.

Doing so would very likely reduce the birth rates in the region.

Final Thoughts

As seen, the factors of overpopulation in South Africa are quite varied and complicated.

The causes are a mix of immigration, national stability, and medical improvements.

Finally, meaningful messaging from the government regarding family planning, and a restriction on foreigners, should help reduce overpopulation in South Africa.

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