Kenya, according to the UN’s World Population Prospects records between 4,000 and 4,800 births per day, which at the end of the year will put the population growth rate at an estimated 2.52 percent. Although the estimated birth rate is gradually falling, is the country producing enough to sustain the growing population?
In 2017, the number of children born per woman dropped to an average of 3.9, the lowest in East Africa where Burundi had the highest average standing at 5.5, followed by Uganda with 5.4, Tanzania 5.2, Ethiopia 4.6, and Rwanda 4.3.
The figure shows how fertility rates in Kenya have dropped from the recorded 8.1 in 1978 to 3.9. One of the reasons is increasing literacy rates, changes in lifestyle and the majority of the population moving to urban centers.
However, with approximately 4,772 births a day and an estimated population of 51 million, the fertility rate in women is still higher than the global average of 2.5 children.
Notably, Africa has the highest number of birth rates than anywhere in the world. In 1990, 16 percent of the world’s births came from Sub-Sahara Africa. With the rising trend, the birth rate proportion has hit 27 percent and is expected to increase 10 percent more by the year 2050.
The projections of where the population growth is heading in Kenya, and Africa as a whole, is a cause for everyone to worry about the baby boom.
Ironically, the danger wouldn’t be that Kenya or Africa will run out of food, no. The continent has a vast farmland, which is fertile and enough to sustain the economy but the issue is that Africa isn’t productive enough as is evidenced by its importation of net foods.
Many babies stifle economic development, that much is true. Majority of the population is living below the poverty line, which will make it difficult for families to cater for food provision, education, medical care not to mention women having to stay home as full-time mothers.
This is the real problem that awaits Kenya and other African countries. With difficulty in economic development, it will be difficult for Kenyans to lift themselves out of poverty. Picture this, globally, the dependency ratio, that is, the share of people of 20 years and below or those older than 64 taken care of by the working population is 74:100. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the dependency ratio is a whopping 129:100!
In Kenya, as of 2016, the dependency ratio was 77.05:100, which might be considered low by others but considering the current economic situations and the alarming level of unemployment, this could sure take a toll on the country.
The number of extreme poor persons is somehow rising and conspicuously, Kenya is struggling to build enough schools, provide enough medical facilities for mothers and their babies, among other issues.
When people move from rural areas to urban regions, they find the cost of bringing up several children a burden. Therefore, the fertility rates are high in rural areas. Now, the trouble is that reduction in the number of births per woman is happening slowly in Kenya and by the time it gets sustainable, there will already be too many mouths to feed.
Mass sterilization shouldn’t be a resort as it will worsen the mortality rate from selective abortions and whatnot. Sensitization and government drive to increase varied birth control to poor rural areas are some of the examples that can be used to salvage the situation.
High birth rates can also be handled indirectly, by concentrating on the things that are known to affect it, most importantly education for girls. Better access to education has so many benefits and managing how one conceives is among them.