By Fred Mugambi
The United Nations has just released the World Population Prospects (2015 Revision). This is a respected publication that summarises economic, social and environmental data from member countries of the United Nations.
The 2015 global demographic statistics by the UN are astounding. These figures give a snapshot of where nations, including Kenya, are headed. According to the UN, by 2050, the world population will rise from the current 7.35 billion to 9.72 billion. It will hit a high of 11.23 billion by the year 2100.
Most of this growth will be powered by Africa. Indeed, Nigeria is poised to overtake the US to become the third most populous nation in the world after India and China by the year 2050, with a population of 399 million.
Between 2015 and 2030, Africa’s population is set to rise from the current 1.19 billion to 1.68 billion. This figure will rise further to 2.48 billion and 4.39 billion in the years 2050 and 2100 respectively.
In East Africa, Uganda’s population growth is set to overtake Kenya’s before the 2050. By that time Uganda’s population is projected to reach 102 million against Kenya’s 96 million. Of course, Ethiopia and Tanzania will lead the region with populations of 188 million and 137 million respectively.
Perhaps the most unsettling statistic is that 41 per cent of Africa’s population is under 15 years, with another 19 per cent being between ages 15-24.
This means that Africa’s unproductive population could be in the range of 50 per cent or more! In other words, 50 per cent of Africa’s population is being fed and sustained by the other 50 per cent, with over 30 per cent of the breadwinning population being jobless! So what do these statistics portend for Kenya and the region?
In the next 15 years, Kenya’s population will grow by over 50 per cent and by the year 2050 our population will more than double.
In essence, pressure on resources and infrastructure will rise by 50 per cent or more in 15 short years.
This means that we must grow our national income and grow the economy by 50 per cent to maintain the current average quality of life for our citizens, though we are not enjoying a favourable quality of life in the first place.
For Kenya to maintain the current socio-economic status for its people, it must grow its GDP from the current about $70 billion to over $130 billion in 15 years. We must also increase our exports threefold. Currently, we are importing almost three times more than we are exporting.
We are currently injecting onto our roads between 11,000 and 14,000 vehicles per month. By the year 2030 this number will most likely double.
If we don’t expand our road network, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and other cities will grind to a halt and we will celebrate the golden year of the Vision 2030 in huge gridlocks.
Between now and 2030 we must, therefore, expand our road network by at least 100,000 kilometres. We must also grow our airports, seaports and public transport systems by 50 per cent.
The urban population is increasing dangerously and in line with the population growth, we must expand job opportunities by more than 50 per cent in the next 15 years.
For us to maintain the status quo, we must create more than 10 million jobs for our youth during this period.
Remember, growing all these spheres of our economy will only maintain the current status. This means that even after doing all this, unemployment may still remain at the current rate of over 40 per cent!
Our current socio-economic status as demonstrated by the current average quality of life in Kenya is wanting and we cannot live through it for another 15 years.
If this happens I frankly cannot rule out a popular uprising.
Kenyans don’t want to maintain the status quo; they want jobs, health care, education and access to other services. They want a secure country which tourists can visit freely and leave behind good dollars.
The time has come for Kenya to assess its readiness to face the next 15 years especially in light of these scary statistics. If we don’t do this, we will wake up on Tuesday, December 31, 2030 and wonder what went wrong.