Thursday, April 15, 2010

Population replacement in Algeria?

'Trans-Saharan' immigrant camp in Algeria

The 21st century will see a surge of emigration from sub-Saharan Africa that will eclipse the one that used to pour out of Europe into the Americas, southern Africa, Siberia, and Australia. Millions upon millions will be claiming new lands for themselves, just like Europeans of another age.

The biggest surprise will be their push into a wide range of territories, and not simply the homelands of the former colonial powers. Remember, this is not a game of ‘tit for tat.’ It is not some kind of just recompense for colonial wrongs, although its enablers will portray it as such. This is a game that predates our notions of justice and even humanity itself. In fact, it is as old as the oldest life forms.

One front of this population expansion will be Algeria, a Mediterranean country immediately north of sub-Saharan Africa. Until recently, it was a country of emigration, not immigration, its population growing almost entirely through natural increase. The last decade, however, has seen its demography become more and more ‘European’. On the one hand, the fertility rate has fallen to 2.27 children per woman—just enough to replace the existing population. On the other, immigration has become a significant source of population growth.

The current influx began in the mid-1990s. Initially, it flowed into the Saharan portion of Algeria from the neighboring states of Niger and Mali. Over the past decade, its sources have broadened to include all of West Africa and even Central and East Africa. This ‘trans-Saharan’ immigration is also spreading to the north of the country, i.e., the Mediterranean coast:

Further north, in Alger, between the migrants in the old Arab city (the Casbah), the old colonial center (the Port-Saïd quarter essentially), and those in the peripheral quarters (Dely Brahim, Chéraga), and even though the migrants keep a very low profile, there are at least 15,000. In Oran, Algeria’s western metropolis, though closer to the border, there are several thousand (between 3,000 and 5,000) whereas for Maghniyya, a town next to northern Morocco, […] the member of the legislative assembly for that town gives a figure of 3,000 migrants in a camp nearby (Oued Jordi) and 4,000 others in the town itself. (Bensaâd, 2009)

This is something new for Algerians:

The phenomenon of clandestine immigration in Algeria is relatively new for a country like our own, which has become, in only a few years, one of the desirable destinations for nationals of sub-Saharan countries, with some of them attempting to settle here. (, 2005)

At first, it was thought that they were simply passing through on their way to Europe. Many were, but many more saw Algeria itself as their new home:

Some might think that these Black African immigrants are just passing through Algeria, while they wait to find a way to enter Europe. But in reality they say they have found what they want in Algeria. As proof, they have moved in with their families. (, 2005)

Last year, the national gendarmerie estimated that 70% of all clandestine immigrants intend to settle in the country permanently (, 2009).

Efforts are certainly being made to control the influx. Bensaâd (2009, p. 18) reports that 3,000 migrants are being expelled per month at Tin Zouatin, on the Mali border. And Tin Zouatin is just one of three ‘expulsion points.’ Even though Algeria has signed all of the international conventions on refugees, it has never granted anyone refugee status (Bensaâd, 2009, p. 20)

Yet the influx continues and anti-immigration sentiment is rising among Algerians. It is unclear, however, how this sentiment will translate into political action. The current administration is committed, at least superficially, to a paradigm that took shape during the independence struggle of the early 1960s, i.e., international socialism, pan-Africanism, and Third Worldism. There is a political opposition—the Islamists—but they too are committed to a universalist paradigm that could hardly be used to mobilize opposition to immigration. Remember, most of the trans-Saharan immigrants are also Muslims.

Algeria is thus caught in an ideological gridlock that will probably allow the influx to continue, at least for now. Will we eventually see population replacement? Such a scenario might seem unlikely. After all, Algeria’s fertility rate has not fallen below the replacement level and its gendarmerie has shown a degree of seriousness in dealing with clandestine immigration that would put many Western countries to shame.

Against this, it should be pointed out that the fertility rate has already fallen below replacement in neighboring Tunisia (1.84 children per woman), and this decline will likely spread to the rest of North Africa. Meanwhile, immigration cannot help but increase. First, there is the long porous border with sub-Saharan Africa, particularly with those regions that now have the highest rates of natural increase on the continent. Second, production of oil and natural gas will spur economic growth and create employment for immigrant workers. Third, the Algerian leadership is committed to maintaining at least an outward show of pan-African solidarity. This might explain the secrecy that seems to surround most immigration data (Bensaâd, 2009, pp. 17-21). Too much information could inflame public opinion or, as the demographer Ali Bensaâd puts it, force the Algerian authorities to address “a new societal reality for which they have no legal and social answers.”

So, yes, if current trends continue, we will eventually see population replacement. This process will be fueled not only by high levels of African immigration but also by the youthful age structure and high fertility of the immigrant population, which may pass the one-million mark as soon as five years from now. At that point, immigration control will start to break down, with clandestine immigrants simply melting away into the existing community. Algeria too will be entering the “age of interesting times.”

References (2005). L’Algérie, eldorado de l’immigration clandestine, Sept. 6, 2005 (2009). Immigration clandestine : En Algérie, 70% des clandestins se stabilisent, June 2, 2009

Bensaâd, A. (2009). Le Maghreb à l’épreuve des migrations subsahariennes. Immigration sur émigration, Paris : Éditions Karthala.


Sagat said...

You paint a very grim picture of the future of the world, Mr. Frost.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, some sort of broad collapse of the industrialized world that disrupts food and medicine traffic into sub-Saharan Africa will mercifully intercede.

Max said...

North Africa, China, Europe... where else are they headed?

J. Flowers said...

I am in my late twenties. Can anyone name a place (country, province, etc.) that will be immune to this demographic change for the next 40-50 years? This extremely depressing, and yet Mr Frost's observations seem to closely correspond to reality.

Insightful said...

J. Flowers, the solution is to help sub-saharan Africa economically. Then there wouldn't be much of a need for its people to immigrate. Remember, people seek opportunity. That is why they leave their birth places, but if you provide that chance at home then they won't have too. So by helping sub-saharan Africa we help ourselves..

J. Flowers said...


I agree, but how do you provide that help? Bob Geldof assisted to help Ethopia in the 80's and since than the population has doubled. I think any assistance that contributes to economic growth in Africa will be absorbed by population growth. Living standards there will remain static or decline (the classic 'malthusian trap'). Many people think the establishment of a 1st world economy and infrastructure in Africa will prevent this mass migration. Rhodesia in 1980 had these characteristics and today I am sure that many Zimbabweans would like to emigrate (btw, would it really be all that different if Mugabe hadn't taken over?).

Too much intrusion by western contries would be viewed as return to colonialism, which would never be accepted. But even during this period the native populations were exploding and it was just a matter of time before these regimes would collapse. South Africa is another example where economic assistance was provded to the bantu people. Their population increased, the old regime had to collapse and things today are deteriorating.

Tod said...

Governments maybe have a motive to tacitly permit their population to be replaced as long as it does not cause too much unrest. Populations made up of homogeneous masses like in Algeria are more likely to cause trouble but immigration breaks down the population's sense of solidarity and reduces the influence of regionalism or ethnicity.

I think many governments are quite pleased with the effect immigration has of weakening traditional loyalties. Many countries in the Arab world are ruled by minorities who regard the allegiances of their subjects as a potential basis for an illegitimate political movement.

I wonder about governments in the West having similar motives too.

Anonymous said...

J. Flowers, the solution is to help sub-saharan Africa economically. Then there wouldn't be much of a need for its people to immigrate. Remember, people seek opportunity. That is why they leave their birth places, but if you provide that chance at home then they won't have too. So by helping sub-saharan Africa we help ourselves..

Wrong. Economic aid is what got us into this problem in the first place. It's what has subsidized Africa's population growth that is now spilling over out of Africa. And there really is nothing aside from genetic engineering and eugenics that can be done to "help" them, since all these efforts to improve them economically aren't to try to help them reach a stable level in accordance with their native abilities and capacities, but to try to get them to reach advanced Western standards that they're simply incapable of sustaining by themselves.

Peter Frost said...


In diplomacy, the answer is called 'frank discussion'. We should be telling certain African states that their current level of population growth is unsustainable and constitutes a threat to world peace.

Concrete measures would include:

- raising the age of marriage
- increasing educational opportunities for young women
- prohibiting polygamy
- increasing reproductive choice for women and improving access to birth control, including abortion.

As countries like Algeria, Israel, and China start to grapple with this issue, they too will want to get in on the 'frank discussion'. This is one of the principles of alliance theory. When one nation starts to act aggressively, it tends to create a coalition among other nations that, otherwise, would not be allied to each other.

Anonymous said...

Concrete measures would include:

- raising the age of marriage
- increasing educational opportunities for young women
- prohibiting polygamy
- increasing reproductive choice for women and improving access to birth control, including abortion.


I'm very pessimistic. We can't even get them to maintain the basic rudiments of civilization, such as sanitation, public safety, order, etc. Jacob Zuma, the leader of one of the more "advanced" sub-Saharan African states, South Africa, is an unabashed, public, and extravagant polygamist. They're just so r-selected I don't see how these social policies will be able counteract it.

Max said...

I think continued Chinese investment in Africa is Africa's best bet at real economic development.

Some significant countries in sub-Saharan Africa have turned the corner in regard to population growth. South Africa has a comparatively low birth rate (around 2.2 children per woman, I think). Kenya's fertility rate declined substantially over the past thirty years, though that decline stalled at around 3 births per woman, perhaps because of Bush's idiotic decision to completely ignore family planning efforts in favor of HIV prevention (both should be promoted). Obama's move to restore funding for family planning in Kenya might help get things moving again. And Rwanda, though a relatively small country, has seen a tremendous increase in the percentage of women using contraception thanks to government efforts; the fertility rate dropped from 6.1 to 5.5 in only a few years, according to government surveys, and the most recent government survey, though not estimating tfrs, showed a further significant increase in contraceptive use.

On the other hand, heavy hitters like Nigeria and Ethiopia don't seem to be registering any significant declines.

I am still optimistic that Chinese development and good leadership (for which Africans do not have a reputation, but there are *some* good leaders on that continent) will lead to some areas of development on that continent that might prove more attractive to emigrants than areas abroad.

It's instructive that when Zimbabwe collapsed, most economic refugees went next door to South Africa, not places abroad.

Mr_Zlu said...

How comes that nowadays' facts are always depressing ?

Peter Frost said...


You're undoubtedly referring to Rushton's theory that sub-Saharan Africans are hardwired for an 'r'-type reproductive strategy. I'm frankly skeptical for a number of reasons. For one thing, fertility is now close to replacement throughout most of the West Indies. The same is true for the African-American population. In Cuba, fertility is well below replacement.

Why, then, are fertility rates still high in sub-Saharan Africa when they are falling everywhere else, including Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa that have traditional family values?

A big reason, I think, is female-dominated subsistence agriculture. In sub-Saharan Africa, women contribute much more than men to food production. They are thus relatively autonomous when it comes to supporting themselves and their children. So it is easier for a woman to begin family formation soon after puberty and to continue family formation even if her mate has died or left her. The high incidence of polygyny also ensures a plentiful supply of male mates.

This system is breaking down in urban Africa, where fertility rates are much lower.


African states will try to play China, North America, and Europe against each other in order to get the best prices possible for exports of oil and other resources. In this sense, China will be a great help, at least in the short term. But if nothing changes demographically, the money from resource exports will just be converted into more people. There has to be real social and cultural change, particularly in the status of African women.


Truth can be depressing. But it's better to face unpleasant truths than to go on telling ourselves pleasant lies.

Mr_Zlu said...

@Peter Frost

That's why I keep reading your blog ;)

The Asian of Reason said...

What happens if/when the East Asian countries with all their techno-centric culture develop synthetic unobtainium and no longer have any need for the natural resources in Africa?

Peter Frost said...

The Asian of Reason,

The problem is that China, like most countries, will be facing not only an oil shortage, but also shortages in most basic commodities, including food. For such a wide-ranging problem, there can never be a magic technological fix.

One solution is to exploit Africa's resources while hoping that something will happen (new technologies, discovery of unknown resources on the sea floor or in outer space, etc.) to keep us going on our present joy ride.

More realistically, we should accept a much lower rate of economic growth and use our present resources more efficiently. But that is one thing that our globalist, growth-addicted business community doesn't want to hear.

Mr_Zlu said...

@Peter Frost

That is what I am thinking.

Instead of caring about the people themselves, authorities only care about economic growth, hoping that it is tantamount to the happiness of the people.

"Il faut manger pour vivre, et non pas vivre pour manger."

Molière, l'Avare

kurt9 said...

No, technological innovation is ALWAYS the solution to any problem, especially resource limitations. There are new nuclear power technologies being developed (thorium reactors, traveling wave reactors) that are being developed with current technology. More speculatively (we will know in another year or so) are the various privately funded efforts to develop fusion power.

With food production, there is aeroponics as well as the possibility of direct manufacture via biotechnological food factories.

I can go on and on. The point is that innovation and creative thinking an solve any and all problems. There will never be a problem that innovation cannot solve.

I believe in growth. We need more growth, not less. Much more growth. Growth creates the technological and financial resources that can be used to solve any problem that may show up up in the future.

Silver said...

Peter Frost said,

In diplomacy, the answer is called 'frank discussion'. We should be telling certain African states that their current level of population growth is unsustainable and constitutes a threat to world peace.

The problem is if the past five decades have proven anything it is that Africans are seldom inclined to listen to anybody and even less inclined to act on advice that they do lend an ear to. I don't see how anything short of a return to iron-fisted diplomacy could avert disaster.

Continuing discussion of concepts like Frank Salter's "EGI" (commonly misused and abused by partisan nationalists) seems to have the effect of hardening people's hearts towards the genetically very distant and, whatever its other risks, may prove the most effective psychological tool in resisting negrification.

Peter Frost said...


In the 1970s, I remember hearing people talk about how we would have limitless fusion power by the year 2000, how we would have colonies on the moon, how we would live to be over 100, how we would work only four days a week, etc., etc.

Well, where are the moon colonies? Where is the 4-day week? Where is this future that people like you promised me?

Reality almost always falls short of our glorious expectations. Yes, it's good to dream, but please don't be delusional.

We're in for a rough ride. A very rough ride.


In the past, the Cold War prevented any real 'frank discussion' with Africa. In any case, the 'frank discussion' is just as much for us as it is for them.

Anonymous said...

Everyone here seems to be missing an obvious point: wouldn't it be rather simple to keep Africans out of countries where they were not wanted, by simply forbidding them to enter?

Mr_Zlu said...

@Anonymous (April 22, 2010 7:25:00 AM EST)

Yeah but you will be branded as a "racist" by the World PC Nuremberg Tribunal.

Besides, business will promote the entry of those immigrants to cut their labour cost (and we all know that nowadays' governments care more about business and economic growth than the people they are supposed to take care of).

kurt9 said...

Peter Frost,

I'm old enough to remember the limits to growth clap trap from the 1970's. The current stuff is recycled stuff right from the 1970's. It was false then, it is false today. The limits to growth ideology is peddled by those who want to restrict economic freedom and wealth creation. You know this as well as I do.

I don't think there is any argument that we need lots of economic growth. All net job creation is by small to medium sized growth-oriented companies. By jobs I mean real, career-oriented STEM and other jobs. We need reduced regulation and reduced government power so that such economic and job growth is free to occur.

The U.S. needs, at minimum, 5% annual economic growth.

There is no such thing as "too much" economic growth, any more than it is possible to be "too" good-looking or "too" rich.

kurt9 said...

You know, the limits to growth problem is self-solving. As you know well, when societies reach a certain level of economic well-being, they have far fewer kids. Japan and Europe are the best known examples of this. When this happens, economic growth levels off because there are fewer people around to buy stuff. So, less stuff gets made.

Take Japan as example. You see lots of young people in Tokyo. Some of them are career-driven, most of them are bohemian slacker types. Japan has had very little economic growth since the end of their bubble in 1992 because there simply is not the population growth and, hence, demand for that growth. Japanese young people would rather kick back and live the slacker bohemian life rather than work as salary-man slaves like their fathers did. Having lived in and experienced Japanese life day to day, I can certainly agree that this is a rational lifestyle choice for the young people today.

China will reach this point in 15 years and India will get there in by 2040. The rest of the world (except possibly Sub-Sahara Africa) will go through this demographic transition by 2040, if not before. This means the entire world will be like Japan is today by 2050.

This should make anyone who believes in the limits to growth meme very happy. Since the actual resource limits to Earth are somewhat beyond this point, around 15 billion people at U.S. standard of living (see, it means that the entire world will become a Europe or Japan-like slacker young peoples' society long before the actually limits are reached and that everything will be fine.

This is what I tell all of my "limits to growth" friends whenever we have this discussion. Slow population decline is good, because it means not only do the people who want good career-oriented jobs get them, but that each kid gets to inherit the wealth of both parents. If the "one-child" birth rate is norm for all, it means that each generation gets to become twice as wealthy without any additional growth of industrial production and resource consumption.

Peter Frost said...

"The limits to growth ideology is peddled by those who want to restrict economic freedom and wealth creation. You know this as well as I do."

No I don't. And evidently neither do you. If you want honest debate, don't presuppose the motives of the people you're arguing with.

"The U.S. needs, at minimum, 5% annual economic growth."

You're mistaken if you're talking about the current American population. You're arguably right if you mean the half-billion or so people who will inhabit the U.S. by mid-century -- if current trends continue.

Of course, at that point it's doubtful that the U.S. will be in any position to get what it 'needs.'

kurt9 said...

Ultimately, the only way to limit economic growth is to reduce the birthrate as much as possible. Female education and empowerment along with feminism is the best way to do this. Female education and empowerment should be promoted globally, especially in Africa and the Muslim middle-east). Birth control and easy access to abortion on demand should be promoted globally as well. It is silly to oppose any of these things.

I also think that the bohemian lifestyle should be promoted as well. Bohemian slackers not only tend not to have kids, they tend to consume less while getting more enjoyment out of life. This life style choice ought to be promoted globally as well.

I have always thought things would be better if the fertility/infertility condition were reversed. Instead of the default condition of fertility and having to take pills or surgery for birth control, the world would be a far better place if this was reversed. Infertility would be the default condition and people would be free to screw all they want. Then when they did want a kid, they take a pill or go to a clinic to become fertile. I have always thought this is the only rational way to resolve the whole sex/abortion/family political brouhaha. I think developing the technology to make this possible should be top priority.

I believe all of these to be good things independent of any limits to growth. Contrary to what all of the MRA/HBD people say, I really do believe feminism and female empowerment allows for better sex for both genders. I think the MRA/HBD people are stupid to oppose these things.

It sounds like you and I are in agreement on the social issues.

Clearly the demand-side limits to growth are real, which we will reach around 2040 or so. I do not subscribe to the supply-side limits to growth, which I think is a political fabrication. More specifically, the supply-side limits are a lot further out than most presume.

Here's the actual supply-side limits to growth:

BTW, I am a big-time advocate of nuclear power, and I mean big time. I think the anti-nuclear hysteria that began in the 1970's was the most idiotic, ignorant, counter-productive thing that the baby-boomers ever came up with.

kurt9 said...

I forgot to mention.

Another method of reducing birthrates is to promote the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality. I'm an favor of this as well (but for different reasons).

Peter Frost said...

"It sounds like you and I are in agreement on the social issues."

I don't think so.

kurt9 said...

I don't think so.

Sure we do.

You know, the correlation between feminism, female empowerment in general, and social liberalism and reduced birthrates is so strong that there are some people who actually believe there is a conspiracy among the elites to promote all of these things for de-population purposes. Often they bandy names about such as the Rockefellers and what not.

Of course, I don't believe in conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, you have to admit the correlation exists and, if you believe in the limits to growth as you claim you do, must view it as a very positive trend, one that should be encouraged globally.

Peter Frost said...


The correlation is very weak. East Asia has fertility rates well below replacement, despite a minimal presence of feminism and a more traditional family-oriented society (at least in comparison to North America and Western Europe). Conversely, in Iceland, feminism is much stronger and most families are 'post-traditional', yet the fertility rate is at or above replacement.

In any case, natural increase is no longer driving population growth in most Western countries. Immigration is.

Bhanu Prasad said...


As we move from farm to urban settlements, As our volume of knowledge piles on, the task of bringing up children becomes exponentially expensive.

If one can have a super device that would educate your kid in 10 years, enabling him to join workforce by 14, we would have a lot more children.

Anonymous said...

The black people of Algeria.