Population surge to pressure economy
Kenya’s population increased by 10 million since 2009, putting pressure on the government to increase spending on social amenities to cater for the growth, experts have said.
The 2019 census, whose expenditure stood at Sh8.4 billion down from Sh18.5 billion in 2009, shows the population hit 47.6 million up from 37.7 million in 2009.
Yesterday, while releasing the census report, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) said there are more than 12 million households with an average of four people per household in the country.
To cater for the increasing youthful population, analysts say the government must invest in social amenities such as schools, hospitals, roads and libraries to reduce pressure on the existing ones. Andrew Kyalo, a demographics expert, described the country’s population increase as normal growth saying a majority of Kenyans were still within the childbearing age.
“The government should continue investing in services that target young people such as education, job creation, and invest in health for young mothers and adolescents,” he said.
“There will be a lot of pressure on social amenities in towns such as Nairobi, hence, we will need to invest in housing so that we do not end up with more slums,” he added.
Kyalo noted that the increasing youthful population was an opportunity, not a liability, saying it would result in demographic dividends and economic growth emanating from change in the age structure of a country’s population.
“We will have more people joining the labor force. All we need to do is invest in the right skills. When we have more gainfully employed people, there will be more workers and fewer dependants translating into increased investments,” he said.
At the same time, some warn that increasing social overhead capital, which has minimal immediate returns, will reduce the amount of resources available for productive investment.
“The increased population will force the government to invest in social infrastructure which has minimal immediate returns, derailing productive investment,” said Samuel Nyandemo, an economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi, adding: “We need to reshape our investment strategy. We need to do away with all investments whose returns do not trickle down. We also have to combat corruption,” he added.
Fiscal policy analyst and former Permanent secretary for Transport, Gerrishon Ikiara described the relatively slow population growth as good news saying it showed family planning campaigns were effective.
“The country has done well in controlling fertility rates, which is a good thing,” said Ikiara, adding: “We can only grow per capita income by slowing down population growth. That is how Nordic countries have a higher quality of life despite having smaller populations,” he added.
Ikiara said slowing down of population growth was a good thing as it would give the government some breathing space adding he expected it would result in heightened poverty reduction.
He, however, noted that a large population could be a blessing too provided it is well empowered.