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It’s not the numbers nor family size that fail us, but planning

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By JOHN MBARIA

Posted  Monday, October 11   2010 at  00:00

Listening to a number of people comment on the recently-released population census, one would be forgiven to think that Kenya is bursting at the seams with people, where life might soon come to an end because we have exhausted the country’s carrying capacity.

This is “grandfather’s mentality” and has little to do with global reality.

With about 583,000 square kilometers of land, we are ranked 34th globally as far as population sizes are concerned.

With less than half of Kenya’s total land area, Britain has 248 per square kilometre, Japan has 337 while Bangladesh has over 1,000 people.

Some would say it is wrong to compare ourselves with countries like Britain, France or Spain because though their populations are large, they have more than they need to feed, clothe, house as well as afford significant luxuries for their nationals with GDPs ranging in size from $1.5 trillion to $2.7 trillion contrasted with Kenya’s $32.7 billion.

This brings us to the question: Why is it that countries that are so small in size continue to hog disproportionate market values of all goods and services they produce?

Why have we have lagged behind others?

Is it us or the politics?

The standard explanation is that there is something wrong with our politics or that we do not have enough resources to drive us ahead.

The other side of this argument is that we have a short history of “development” compared with Britain or France; or that we have not developed enough capacity to convert the “physical stuff” in the countryside into usable resources.

Some even ask us to look inwards: That there is something wrong with our different ethnic cultures; that we have stuck too much to the traditional, the “tested” and the known to seize emerging opportunities or embrace a radical shift in our productive endeavours.

Few people ever say, in any meaningful way, that we are just too few to fill “Wanjiku’s” shopping bag with all that she needs to lift herself from poverty and sheer deprivation.

Given the day-to-day exposure to media advertisements glorifying small families and taking into consideration how easy it is for our economy to exclude those who do not fit within pre-defined limits, it is easy not to blame a married couple that feels a family of six is too big.

Warped argument

I term this argument warped much as it has sunk so deeply into our psyches that we can no longer see these issues in any other way.

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