Kenya held its ten-year census in August 2019 and released it preliminary results last November. At that time I wrote in my Report from Kenya Kenya’s 2019 Census is Way Down from Projections (see here) that the actual number was 47,564,000, while the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) had an estimate of 52,574,000. This was a whooping 5 million (over 10%) more people than the actual count. While the official population figure came out over four months ago, I see that UNPD and other sources are still using the old inflated number in their publications.

The actual result shows that Kenya’s fertility rate is rapidly declining. Look at the population pyramid at the top of this article produced by the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics as part of the announcement of the results. Notice how rapidly the five year cohorts increase from the top through the 10 to 14 year old cohort. This is due to the high birth rate from 1970 through 2010. Then notice how it declines for the following two cohorts. This means that the number of babies born in these years is declining even as the number of women of child-bearing age is increasing. This shows a remarkable decline.

While I don’t usually like to “toot my own horn” (but then why not?), six years ago in September 2014 I wrote (see here),  “My observation — 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 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.”

Now the just released details from the 2019 census not only validates this rapid demographic transition, but amplifies it. The following table shows the number of births each year from 2003 to 2019.

Notice that 2009 at 1,379,280 births was the year with the highest number of births. From there (remembering that the number of women in their child-bearing years was increasing) the number of births continued to decline annually until 2019 at 1,105,074 births. This is a significant decline of 274,206 births or 20 per cent over a ten year period. My observation from this is that Kenya has already completed it demographic transition to a replacement level (2.1 births per woman of child bearing age) or even lower fertility rate.


The census data shows that 31.1% of Kenya’s population is urban and 68.9% is rural.

This population pyramid is for the urban population in Kenya. Comparing this to the country-wide population pyramid at the top of this Report, notice that there is a major bulge in the working age population starting with the 20 to 24 year-old age group. This confirms my observation in a recent Report from Kenya, The Nuclear Family Is Not the Ideal in Kenya (see here) that young people go to the cities and towns for work and leave their children behind in their original homeland and then later return to their ancestral home.  


Here are some other interesting facts. 55.1 per cent of the people use firewood for cooking, while 23.9 per cent (probably mostly in the cities and towns) use cooking gas. 40.7 per cent of the people have TVs. For lighting 50.4 per cent use electricity while 19.3 per cent, a substantial number, use the new home solar systems. This then leaves about 30 per cent of the population without electricity.


The census results consists of four volumes. Page 423/424 of the fourth volume is the one that attracted most of the attention in Kenya. This was the listing of the tribal affiliation of everyone in Kenya. Since politics in Kenya is based on ethnicity/tribe, the focus was on how many people there were in each tribe. The Luhya with 6,823,842 members or 14% per cent were the second biggest tribe after the Kikuyu. With seven tribes including the Luhya out of 45, the members of the tribe were broken down into sub-tribe. People could chose either their tribe or sub-tribe for their tribal affiliation. Gladys and the members of our household chose “Luhya” rather than the sub-tribe (which actually varied in our household of eleven members). I remember after the last 2009 census that a columnist complained that his tribe, “Kenyan”, was not included in the list of possibilities. This was allowed in this Kenyan census. Interestingly enough 183,023 Kenyans recorded themselves as “Kenyan” without any tribal designation. Hopefully this is a small harbinger of change to Kenyans’ fixation on tribe.


It is always interesting to see where I fit in. Lugari sub-county had a population of 122,728 people. I was one of the 360 people in the sub-county who was 76 years old. There were 13,983 Americans in Kenya, although some of these may have been temporary tourists.


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David Zarembka

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