Nigeria has a high fertility rate. Why are infertility clinics booming?

IN A rough-and-ready church in Ifo, on the northern fringe of Lagos, Prophet Emmanuel Akanni and Prophetess Foluke Akanni do extraordinary things. During moments of religious ecstasy, Mr Akanni receives visions that indicate which of his congregants are struggling to conceive children. By holding a chicken’s egg over a woman’s belly, he claims to be able to spy into her womb. Then he uses herbs and prayers to effect a cure. “There is nothing God cannot do,” adds Mrs Akanni.

The fertility rate in Nigeria is estimated to be 5.4, implying that the average woman can expect to have that many children during her life. Yet many Nigerians experience infertility. Chelsea Polis of the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank, and her colleagues estimate that 31% of Nigerian couples fail to conceive a child after 12 months of unprotected sex—a rate at least as high as in the West. In a country where a woman’s worth is defined largely in terms of her ability to bear children, there is a growth market…

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