Soaring population swamps Kenya ambitions

November 10, 2011 • Family Planning, Daily Email Recap

From the Financial Times. See:

Soaring population swamps Kenya ambitions

September 29, 2011 4:50 pm

Soaring population swamps Kenya ambitions

By Katrina Manson in Nairobi

Already father to 28 children, Ali Bare is keen for more. To the 46-year-old herder from north-eastern Kenya, his offspring rank among his prize assets including cows and goats.

“I will divorce my first wife, she is too old,” declares Mr Bare, who intends to take a younger, fifth wife to heed religious rules allowing a maximum of four wives at a time.

As the world readies for the arrival of its seven billionth person, a milestone expected at the end of October, Kenya is among countries facing an uphill task to reduce population growth. It is also emblematic of a bigger problem confronting Africa where the combination of scarce resources like water and land and a soaring population could yield more conflict in a region already all too familiar with war and drought.

“African countries have rapidly growing populations and the environment is very vulnerable – there’s a catastrophe there just waiting to happen,” says Dr Eliya Zulu, president of the Union for African Population Studies.

The problem, demographers say, is that it may be too late already. In Kenya, they complain, few policymakers understand that because 43 per cent of Kenyans are under 15, even if birth rates decline further, numbers will not start to stabilise until 2090 at about 100m. Even by moderate estimates, Kenya’s 41m people today will swell to 85m by 2050, straining ambitious hopes to become a middle-income country by 2030.

“Our problem is not size, but the pace of its growth: every year an additional million new [people] enter [the population] and it is choking growth in the economy,” says Boniface K’Oyugi, chief executive of Kenya’s national co-ordinating agency for population and development. “Instead of resources going for productive investment they have to go for consumption: we will have all this idle youth who require health, education, skills training before they can be made useful.”

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