UN unit hints population now at 43m, to hit 54m next year

Isiolo county commissioner Joseph Kanyiri on 14/08/2019 when he addressed journalists in his office concerning preparations for the 2019 census. [Bruno Mutunga]

Kenya’s population has increased tremendously over the years from the 38.6 million that was registered in the last census in 2009.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division estimates that Kenya’s population is approximately 43 million currently, and will reach 54 million next year, 62.6 million in 2025 and 71.2 million in 2030.

Data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show the country’s population increased from 2.5 million during first count in 1897 to 5.4 million in 1948.

During the first post-independence census in 1969, population was estimated at 10.9 million and increased to 38.6 million by 2009.

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The data shows that in 1962, the population was 8.6 million, rising to 15.3 million in 1979 while in 1989, the figure stood at 21.4 million.

In 1999, the total population stood at 28.7 million. Though the national census was conducted in 1999, its results were never released but preliminary report was published in 2010.

The Kenya Population and Housing Census (1969-2009), 209 Analytical Report on Population Projections and Analytical Report on Population Dynamics Volume III, show that Kenya’s population has risen steadily in recent decades.

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The proportion of men and women has been roughly the same throughout the years, with women being marginally higher than men.

Rural population

According to the 2009 census, there were 38.6 million Kenyans, with 26.1 million living in the rural areas and 12.5 living in urban centres.

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Then Nairobi had 3.1 million inhabitants, Central (4.4 million), Coast (3.3 million), Eastern (5.7 million), North Eastern (2.3 million), Nyanza (5.4 million), Rift Valley (10 million) and Western (4.3 million).                                                                                                     

The same 2009 census shows that Kikuyu formed the largest ethnic composition of Kenya population.

The Kikuyu population was 17 per cent, followed by Luhya at 14 per cent, Kalenjin at 13 per cent, Luo at 12 per cent and Kamba at 10 per cent.

The Kisii formed six per cent in 2009 while the Mijikenda represented five per cent of the total population. The Meru stood at four per cent, Turkana at 2.5 per cent and Maasai at 2.1 per cent.

The other small indigenous groups represented nine per cent while non-African groups were one per cent.

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According to the 2009 census, the Kikuyu top as the largest community with a population of 6.6 million, Luhya (5.3 million), Kalenjin (4.9 million), Luo (four million) and Kamba three million.

The data shows the number of Kenyan-Somalis – as opposed to members of the foreign Somalis – was 2.3 million and that of Turkana nearly one million.

The other ethnic-based figures, according to the 2009 census, were Kisii (two million), Mijikenda (1.9 million), Meru (1.6 million), Maasai (841,622) and Teso (338,833).

Out of the 38.6 million, 19.4 million were women while 19.2 million were men with 42.9 per cent aged below 15 years.

North Eastern had the highest number of population aged below 15 years at 51.7 per cent, followed by Western at 47.1 per cent, Nyanza (45.9 per cent), Rift Valley (45.3 per cent), Coast (42.3 per cent), Central (36 per cent) and Nairobi (30.3 per cent).

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If the 2009 figures are computed based on counties, then Nairobi County would be the most populous with a population of 3.1 million, followed by Kakamega with 1.66 million, and Bungoma the third-most populous with 1.63 million.

Kiambu, Nakuru, Meru, Kisii, Kilifi and Machakos complete the list of nine counties whose population is more than one million.

Mandera is listed the tenth most populous county with a population of 1,025,756. But it is among eight districts whose census figures were cancelled due to inconsistencies in vital indicators such as birth and death rates and gender distribution.

Lamu was the least populous county with a population of 101,539,  behind Isiolo (143,294) and Samburu (223,947). Tana River, Taita Taveta, Marsabit, Tharaka, Elgeyo Marakwet, Laikipia, and Busia complete the list of the 10 least populated counties.

Siaya in 2009 was the most populous rural district with a population of 550,224.

The least populated district was Laikipia North with a population of 32,762, with Lamu East being the least populated constituency with 18,841.

KNBS data shows that crude birth rates (CBR) and crude death rates (CDR) are the primary determinants of the growth in the population in Kenya, since international migration to Kenya is negligible.

By 2012, KNBS data shows both CBR and CDR declined by 25 per cent since 1979 which is the year of highest fertility.

It further shows that rates of change of both CBR and CDR have meant that annual growth has averaged three per cent over the review period.

Growth rate

Data show that current growth rate increases the total population by about one million persons every year, with an expectation that it will double in the next 23 years.

This brings the expected number of people in the country to 48.6 million this year, with the more dominant ethnic groups still expected to lead in numbers.

KNBS found out that rapid fertility decline in Kenya began in the mid-1980s, with the total fertility rates (TFR) dropping from 8.1 births in the mid-1980s to 6.7 births in 1989. This was attributed to increased contraceptive prevalence that rose from seven per cent in 1978 to 33 per cent in 1993 and 39 per cent in 1998.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division estimates that Kenya’s population is expected to hit 80.6 million in 2035 and 91 million in 2040 while it is projected to be 102 million in 2045 and 114 million in 2050.

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