how does child mortality and population growth work in rural Africa?

back in the 60s the standard claim of economists and demographers was that population of Latin America was growing more rapidly than before because of lower child mortality thanks to modern medicine, coupled with traditional pro-natalist attitudes.

Well, great, but Latin America was and is pretty advanced as poor regions go. By contrast, how much medical/technical improvement was there in child mortality in Africa? If people are too poor to even see a medic and the quality of these medics is dubious, was there any? Or were there major improvements just through the adoption of trivially simple practices like hand washing?

So I guess I am asking, if it seems like the “low child mortality” claim shouldn’t make sense, why the great population boom in 20th century Africa? Is it a matter of lower level of war/violence than what was happening in 19th century and before? Were there some diseases like plague that got eliminated by colonial authorities that, in the past, kept Africa so sparsely populated? Or is it a matter of some essential crops becoming widespread in Africa very recently, so that it didn’t have time for the sort Malthusian booms and busts that European population experienced first during post-Roman transition and second during the crisis of 14the century?

Half-serious theory: the elephants that used to trample people’s farms all got shot, allowing the human population to grow.

It has declined in Africa.

It went from 28% to 16% in Sub Saharan Africa from 1960-2005 and from 25% to 5% in northern Africa.

Africa had it’s medieval booms and busts in medieval times, when the most populated parts of the continent were ruled over by urbanized kingdoms. It’s really mostly in recent times that they fell behind in terms of development. But it’s not like none of the benefits of the modern world reach Africa. The same things that allowed our populations to boom help them, too.

Today, antibiotics and anti-malarials are widely available even in rural markets, and most people have access to a clinic of some kind, though it might be distant and poorly staffed. Access to clean water is slowly growing, and people have a greater awareness of why it is important to pay special attention to the kind of water you give to infants. The invention and dissemination of Oral Rehydration Salts has seriously cut deaths from diarrheal diseases. And a significant number of women get some sort of pre-natal care.

Pesticides and other improved farming techniques have increased crop yields, leading to more high-quality crops (and money from cash crops to buy medicine with.) And many countries have a significant middle class that has even better access to medical care and nutritious food. There are plenty of Africans who shop in the supermarkets and go to hospitals when they are sick, just like you and I.

Additionally, people are expanding into new areas. Logging and industry are creating jobs (and therefor communities) in areas too marginal to farm. Transportation networks allow far-flung settlements to urbanize. Dams and reservoirs make it possible to sustain cities in areas previously too water poor to support large populations. Efforts to fight endemic diseases, such as sleeping sickness, has opened up new areas for settlement.

I would think once they stopped killing whole tribes during wars and slave raids the child mortality rate would have dropped.