CS Ndungu says population to grow to 58 million by 2030 as government unveils population policy

From left- Director General of National Council for Population Development Dr Mohammed Sheikh, CS National Treasury and Economic Planning Prof Njuguna Ndung'u, Principal Secretary for Economic Planning James Muhati and NCPD board member Paarven Sigei display copies of National Population Policy for Sustainable Development in Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The Kenyan population is projected to grow to  53.3 million by next year and  57.8 million by 2030 from the current 54.03 million and 82.6 million by 2050.

This is according to National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Prof. Njuguna Ndung’u.

Ndung’u said this when he attended the launch of  the Sessional Paper No. 1 of 2023, the Kenya National Population Policy for Sustainable Development in Nairobi on Thursday by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD).

He said the government has over the years implemented various population policies and programmes that have resulted in measured progress especially targeted on reduction of rapid population growth.

“Census results show that population growth was 2.9 per cent per annum between 1999 and 2009 to 2.2 percent per annum between 2009 and 2019,” said Ndung’u.

“At this population growth rate, Kenya’s population is projected to reach 57.8 million by the year 2030.It is important to compare regions in Kenya as well but more importantly, the implication of this structure of population by 2030 as well as the structure and required development facilities for that population,” said Ndungu.

The CS raised concerns of the bulging youthful population, which he said a demographic perspective, a youthful age structure ensures that the population will continue to grow even if average fertility drops to the “replacement level”, at which each generation bears the exact number of children needed to replace itself.

“Youth (aged between 18 to 34 years) in Kenya constitute about 29 percent of the total population. The population of the youth grew from 3.2 million in 1989 to 13.2 million in 2019 and is projected to increase to 19 million by 2035. This youth bulge presents the country with great economic and social opportunities, but also enormous challenges,” he said.

He added: “A youthful population presents an opportunity for accelerated economic growth as the increased share of population in the working ages can support an accelerated rise in income per capita, a phenomenon referred to as the “demographic dividend”.”

Ndung’u said harnessing the demographic dividend requires important dimensions of preparedness in development planning and nation-building.

He said to achieve this, four key interconnected pillars are most critical and include health and wellbeing, education and skills development, work, employment and entrepreneurship and quality of institutions.

The CS however said Kenya like many developing countries that are ready demographically to benefit from the dividend lags in these critical investments.

The Sessional Paper shifts focus to a sustainable human development model that places Kenyans at the heart of national development.

It emphasises the maximisation of human capital potential with the focus to harness the demographic dividend to achieve sustainable development goals.

The policy seeks to address seven broad areas; population size, growth and age structure and fertility

Others are morbidity and mortality, mobility, migration, and urbanisation, population, human settlement, environment and disasters, data, research and innovation and finally resource mobilisation.

The policy aligns with Kenya's Vision 2030, the Constitution of Kenya 2010, and various national and international aspirations and goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), African Union Agenda 2063, and commitments from the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

It also builds on the progress made under previous policies, responding to the evolving socio-economic landscape and emerging population and development issues.

“The implementation of the policy will be carried out at both national and county levels, utilising a multi-sectoral approach. The NCPD will spearhead the efforts, ensuring that all sectoral and inter-sectoral policies and programs are aligned towards achieving the policy’s objectives,” said Dr. Mohamed Sheikh, Director General, National Council for Population Development.

Dr Rose Oronje, Kenya Country Director of the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) welcomed the new policy, saying apart from aligning with national and international development agendas, it also emphasises the need for quality of life.

“It also emphasises the need for a high-quality life for all Kenyans, with specific objectives aimed at maximising human capital (including implementing Kenya’s commitments to harness the demographic dividend for accelerated economic growth), promoting an integrated approach to population, environment and development challenges, and harnessing opportunities from international migration while minimising associated risks,” said Dr Oronje.

She called upon the government to see how it will help the bulging youthful population, majority of who are jobless by equipping them with education including vocational skills to either secure jobs or create them through entrepreneurship.

Ms Ronje also said the role of data and research cannot be overstated, saying  evidence- informed decision-making is at the heart of effective policy design, implementation, and monitoring, evaluation, and learning.