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Why there is no need to worry about population increase

By Allan Mungai | July 11th 2021

The world’s population is on the decline. [Courtesy]

About half of the world’s population could be African by the end of the century, according to a study predicting the global population by this time.

The study predicts that the population of Sub-Saharan Africa could triple amid a shrinking global population, with researchers projecting that the region’s population could triple over the course of the century. This would see it rise from an estimated 1.03 billion in 2017 to 3.07 billion in 2100.

The study by researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, projects that by 2100, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Egypt will be among the most populous countries in the world.

Nigeria, at 791 million, will be the second-most populous country after India whose population will be 1.09 billion.

The world’s population, however, is on the decline, the study found. The population is likely to peak at 9.7 billion in 2064, and then decline to about 8.8 billion by the end of the century.

It found that in three decades the global population starts to decline.

By 2100, the study found, 183 of 195 countries will not have fertility rates required to maintain the current population. The paper published in the Lancet, projects that Kenya will reach its peak population of about 83 million in 2071, exactly 50 years from now.

The researchers project that Kenya’s population will rise to 74.14 million in 2100 (from about the current 50 million) while the fertility rate will decline to 1.59. This means that the average woman in Kenya will be having either one or two children.

The average household size has been declining in Kenya, from 4.2 in 2009 to 3.9 during the 2019 census. But from the intercensal growth, which has declined from 2.9 per cent in 2009 to 2.2 per cent in 2019, Kenya is growing closer to the natural population replacement rate.

Humanity needs a birth rate of 2.1 to hold the population steady, states Bricker.

“It is the scenario when a population produces just enough offspring to replace those people who die each year,” he said. 

Kenya’s population will rise to 74.14 million in 2100. Top, Kibra, Nairobi. [Courtesy]

By Kenya’s own estimates provided in 2012, the population is expected to reach nearly 60 million in 2030 and 77 million by 2050.

Growth rate

Kenya’s population has grown over the years from 10.9 million during the 1969 census, 15.3 (1979), 21.4 (1989) and 28.7 (1999), according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

The national intercensal growth rate declined from 3.4 percent in 1969 to 2.7 percent in 1999.

KNBS observed that the intercensal growth rates have significantly declined in Central, Eastern and Western provinces and remained relatively stable in Nairobi, Nyanza, Rift Valley and Coast (except during the 1979-89 intercensal period) since 1969.

“However, the real (intrinsic) growth rate for 1999 will be ascertained using the estimates of birth and death rates. This rate is expected to be lower than the intercensal growth rate given the decline in fertility experienced during the 1989/99 period,” KNBS states in the notes accompanying the 1999 census report.

There are three interacting factors driving population decline and causing dramatic shifts to our population structure: urbanisation, fertility and ageing. On average, humanity is getting older, more female, and family sizes are shrinking.

In 23 countries among them Japan, Thailand, Italy, and Spain, the population will have shrunk by more than half by 2100.

Darrell Bricker, PhD, the Global CEO, Public Affairs at Ipsos says that while an apocalypse brought on by the destruction of the environment by overpopulation has been a topic of debate among scientists and material for Hollywood screenwriters, there is no cause for alarm since the population is heading towards a decline.

“The earth’s population is not growing out of control. Humanity, made up of 7.8 billion souls today, will be hard-pressed to get to 8.5 billion before it tips into decline and will round out the century about where it is now,” he said in an opinion published to coincide with the World Population Day marked today.

Japan, Thailand, Italy, and Spain population will shrink by more than half by 2100. [Courtesy]

He adds: “Contrary to what many of us might expect, planet Earth is not fated to overpopulation. Instead, we are heading towards a global population bust. This trend is already underway, and we expect to see the numbers tip into decline around mid-century.”

He notes that while China and India make up 36 per cent of the world’s population today, the population of the two countries will have shrunk by close to a billion people by 2100.

Projections show China losing over 600 million people by 2100 while India’s population will also drop by nearly 300 million.

“Ageing and immigration will drive population growth more than the birth rate. Meanwhile, the geographic centre of the world’s population will move from Asia to Africa,” he notes.

The study also shows that the population losses predicted for China and India will be partially offset by significant growth in most African nations.

But Bricker says the assumption could not necessarily hold true for Africa given the trend is already in decline in some countries.

Urbanisation - the driving force behind the population decline, is already having an effect in Africa and leading to smaller families.

Women’s access to education and contraceptives has grown, so have anxieties associated with raising children. As a result, more parents are delaying pregnancy and fewer babies are being born.

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