7 April 2012

East Africa: Region's Population Boom Gets Worrisome

Photo: Gregory Di Cresce/IRIN
The Commission noted that cultural beliefs makes it difficult to introduce some of the modern family planning methods that could help to control the population growth.

Arusha — WITHIN only eight years from now, the combined population of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi is expected to reach nearly 240 million people.

But the total area occupied by the five East African Community (EAC) member states will just be the 1.82 million square kilometres that also include parts covered with water, which means the region should brace for a major scramble for land, which is already a sensitive matter.

This is according to the just released "State of East Africa" report which indicates that East Africa's population is growing and urbanizing at a rapid pace; "The region's population has grown by 24 million since 2005 and was estimated to reach 139 million in 2010," says the report made available at the EAC headquarters in Arusha.

Published by the Society for International Development (SID), the SEAR -2012 report was officially launched by the EAC Secretary General, Dr Richard Sezibera.

The "State of East Africa" report points out that the most important population characteristic of East Africa is its children and youth, who accounted for an overwhelming majority (80 per cent), of the region's total population in 2010.

And by the year 2030 the region will have 178 million children and youth out of a total population of 237 million with 31 per cent (73 million) of them living in urban areas, putting pressure on the capacity of East Africa's major cities to host these new urban migrants.

The report suggests that the only way to address the situation is through the establishment of satellite cities and towns to serve as auxiliary urban settlements.

The EAC had a combined population of 139 million in 2010 - an increase of 24 million people from 115 million in 2005. Tanzania had the largest population in the region at 45 million, followed by Kenya (41 million), Uganda (34 million), Rwanda (10 million) and Burundi (9 million).

Tanzania is conducting its next population and housing census next August and the current 45 million population estimates may grow higher with figures from real head count.

Sub-Saharan Africa's total population in 2010 was estimated to be 821 million, with the EAC accounting for 17 per cent of the continent's total. The population of the region is expected to be 237 million by 2030.

Should the EAC expand its membership during the next decade or so, to include South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the regional bloc could account for 40 per cent of the continent's total population. As far as the SEAR-2012 is concerned, projecting ahead to 2030, the estimated population of children under the age of 15 will be 96 million, making up 41 per cent of the region's 237 million people.

The number of East Africa's youth (people aged 15-34 years) was estimated in 2010 at 48 million or 35 per cent of the total population. By 2030 the 82 million young people will still account for 35 per cent of the total population. East Africa's 109 million children and youth accounted for 80 per cent of the total population in 2010. The study indicates that, this group will grow to 178 million by 2030, although its share will decline to a still significant 75 per cent of the region's total population.

The State of East Africa report examines the trends that have taken place in the EAC region since 2006 covering six main themes; the people of East Africa in terms of population growth; natural resource base; human development; infrastructure; economy and politics and government. It is published by the Society for International Development (SID), an international non-governmental network of individuals and organizations founded in 1957 to promote social justice and foster democratic participation.

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