Uganda and Tanzania’s populations could each surpass 200 million people by the end of this century while Kenya’s is forecast to grow to about 160 million people.
According to the new World Population Prospects update for 2013, Uganda, whose current population is about 28 million, expects the highest population growth rate worldwide while Tanzania’s population of 45 million could increase almost fivefold to over 200 million, creating huge additional demand for resources such as food, power and water.
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Population experts attribute Uganda’s rapid population increase to failure by the government to promote family planning.
Kenya has tried to limit its population growth rate over the past two decades. Hospital records show that the maximum number of children per family is three.
But Kenya’s population is still predicted to grow by about 1 million per year or 3,000 people every day, over the next 40 years, to reach just under 100 million by 2050 and about 160 million by the end of the century.
A recent study titled Trends in Contraceptive Need and Use in Developing Countries by the Guttmacher Institute of the US indicated that East Africa has made progress in the use of contraceptives, compared with other African countries, with an increase of 15 per cent.
Between 2008 and 2012, the use of contraceptives in East Africa grew from 31 per cent to 46 per cent.
A United Nations Population Fund report shows that the use of contraceptives in Rwanda is 45 per cent. In Uganda, 30 per cent of the eligible population is using contraceptives.
Since the introduction of the family planning programme in Kenya, the total fertility rate has decreased from 6.7 to 4.7, and the contraceptive use improved from 17 per cent to 32 per cent.
Kenya’s Director of Public Health Dr Shanaaz Shariff said more men were using condoms, having vasectomies and offering financial and moral support to their partners.
The UN projections may turn out differently, as the actual numbers depend on government policies and the broader economic environment. But, in the past, population research has proved quite accurate, as social structures and behaviours change gradually.
Jonathan Monda, a doctor at Kenyatta National Hospital, said that the free maternity services the Kenya government introduced recently would not have a significant impact on the population growth because of the family planning programme that is already in place.
“This is aimed at improving the maternal and infant health and to reduce their deaths due to the deliveries that occur without medical attention,” Dr Monda said.
Kenya’s population growth appears to be steady. The number of children per family fell sharply, from 8.1 in 1978 to 4.6 in 2008, and it is projected to reach 2.4 children by 2050.
Based on these trends, the total number of children aged 0 to 14 years is expected to increase by only 40 per cent by 2050, from 17.5 million to 24.5 million. But the total population will nonetheless more than double.
One of the other reasons for high levels of population growth is that Kenyans are living longer.
Life expectancy is projected to increase from 54 years to 68 years by 2050. The fastest growing population group in Kenya is aged between 15 and 64. This means that from only 22 million working-age people currently, Kenya will have about 56 million working-age people by 2050.
The World Population Prospects report says that overall, the world’s population is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, with most growth recorded in developing regions, especially Africa.
India is expected to be the world’s largest country, passing China around 2028, while Nigeria could surpass the US by 2050.
Nigeria’s population is expected to reach more than 440 million people, compared with about 400 million for the US. The oil-rich African country’s population is forecast to be nearly 914 million by 2100.
Growth is expected to be most rapid in the 49 least developed countries, which are projected to double in size from around 900 million people in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2050.
"Although population growth has slowed, this report reminds us that some developing countries, especially in Africa, are still growing rapidly,” said Wu Hongbo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
Compared with the UN’s previous assessment of world population trends, the new projected total population is higher, particularly after 2075. This is because the current fertility levels have gone up in a number of countries, as new information has become available.
“In some cases, the actual level of fertility appears to have risen in recent years. In other cases, the previous estimate was too low,” said John Wilmoth, director of the Population Division in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
More than half of the global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa. The population of Africa could grow from 1.1 billion today to 2.4 billion in 2050, and potentially reach 4.2 billion by 2100.
The population of the rest of the world is expected to grow by just over 10 per cent between 2013 and 2100, with Europe’s numbers projected to decline by 14 per cent.
Life expectancy is also projected to increase in developed and developing countries in future years, according to the report.
At the global level, life expectancy is projected to reach 76 years in 2045-2050 and 82 years in 2095-2100. By the end of the century, people in developed countries could live to around 89 years, compared with about 81 years in developing regions.
In the least developed countries, life expectancy at birth was estimated to be 58 years in 2005-2010, but is expected to increase to about 70 years in 2045-2050, and 78 years by 2100.
Additional reporting by Christabel Ligami