African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams

Report from Kenya #298 – September 23, 2014

World Population will not Reach 12 Billion in 2010.



In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year…any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

Mark Twain- Life on the Mississippi


          Late last week the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs released their latest projections for world population in 2100, increasing it from 9 billion people to 11 billion, or 10,853,849,000 to be exact. This has led to many articles of alarm and doom in the international media. Their projection is an increase of 3.69 billion from the 2013 count of 7.16 billion. Their newest estimate indicates that 2.93 billion (or 79%) of this increase will come from sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population will increase from 900.63 million to 3.82 billion or by 4¼ times. The whole rest of the world will contribute only 726.72 million to the world’s population increase, so the rest of the world is doing fine, as expected.


          Let me just focus on Kenya, the country where I am living and know best. According to the UN, in 2013 Kenya had a population of 44.35 million which will increase to 160.42 million by 2100. Life expectancy is 57 years and each woman will give birth to 4.8 children by the end of their childbearing years.


          As I look around Kenya, I don’t see this. I notice that very few teenagers are now giving birth – one of the prerequisites for a fall in the birth rate. Young women are not having anything like 4.8 children each. I have a very large in-law family with all its extended members as is common in Kenya. Most of the young women under thirty have zero, one, or two children. It is the older women above thirty who sometimes have many children. This is in spite of the fact that I live in a rural area which has higher birthrates than that in urban settings. Moreover I live in western Kenya which has the second-highest birthrate in the country after the semi-arid areas. One cannot say that my extended family is in any way exceptional as they are clearly like most other families in western, rural Kenyan society. My observations — after living in Kenya in the 1960’s when Kenya had the highest birth rate in the world with women averaging 8 children each at the end of their childbearing years – is that at this time Kenya is perhaps having the fastest demographic transition in the world from a high population increase to a replacement level.  The UN Population Division, of course, has to statistically slowly drop the birth rate depending upon their statistical projections. My point it that the reality on the ground indicates a rapid drop in the birth rate.


          Some readers will not be convinced by this subjective observation. But there is statistical back-up from the population estimates in the World Fact Book put out by the CIA. It reports that Kenya’s fertility rate in 2014 is 3.54 children per woman and not the 4.8 sited by the UN. Since the replacement birthrate is about 2.3 children per women – due to higher child and maternal deaths – Kenya has already moved halfway towards replacement.


          But there is another interesting statistic. In the last ten years the number of children born in Kenya has been in the narrow range of 1.2 million to 1.3 million and the CIA population pyramid shows that, even with more women of child-bearing age, less children were born in the last five years than the five years previous. In other words, births have already stabilized. If we take 1.25 million as an average number of births since 2005, then with the CIA life expectancy of 63.52 years, if this number of babies is born per year, in 2059, the Kenyan population will peak at 79.4 million or less than the UN 2050 projection of 97.17 million let alone its 2010 projection of 160.42 million. If life expectancy during this period increases to 70 years, then the population will be 87.5 million This extra 8.1 million will be due to people living longer, which I assume we can agree is a good thing.


          While this is only one country, the other sub-Saharan African countries are treated similarly and as I have already observed in a prior posting (http://aglifpt.org/rfk/?p=318), Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi are also cutting their birth rates, I think we can extrapolate to the rest of sub-Saharan continent that the UN projections are fantasy. World population will not reach 12 billion in 2011.


Note 1 — Niger: My favorite UN projection is for the country of Niger. In 2013 it had a population of 18 million. With the highest birth rate in the world, the UN projects a population of 204 million people in 2100. While Niger is large, almost twice the size of Texas, the northern 80% of the country is the Saharan desert and the remaining 20% is mostly savannah with the only good agricultural area being on the southern border along the Niger River. There is absolute no way that over 200 million people can survive in such a marginal climate.


Note 2 – Sarah Pallin Fallacy: In articles on the ebola epidemic in West Africa, I have noticed that some indicate that the number of death there is minor compared to the deaths in sub-Saharan Africa from AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea and so on. (See for example, fpif.org/ebola-dwarfed-threat-africa-malaria-hivaids/). These have the implication that the world is too much focused on ebola and that funds could perhaps better be spent elsewhere to greater benefit. This is the Sarah Pallin fallacy – all of Africa is one big country. To the contrary, take the hardest hit country – Liberia. It has recorded almost 2,000 deaths from ebola and those compiling the numbers readily admit that there are probably a significant number of additional unreported deaths from ebola. Moreover since there are no longer any functioning hospitals and clinics, more people than normal are dying of those preventable diseases. Perhaps 4,000 extra deaths have occurred in the last six months. Liberia is a small country with a population of only a little over 4 million people. Last year 40,000 people died in Liberia so this is already a 10% increase in the number of death. With the ebola deaths increasing exponentially and the data covering only half the year, the number of deaths could easily be up by 33% or more from last year. Then who knows where the epidemic will be in 2015 and then 2016 and so on.  

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