High population piles pressure on East African bloc

The East African Community (EAC) is now one of the regions with world’s fastest growing population exacerbating problems of ill health, poverty, environmental degradation, unemployment and declining agricultural productivity.

The latest United Nation’s World Population Prospects report — which has data covering up to 2015 — indicates that Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are among the 33 countries whose population is projected to increase at least five-fold by 2100.

The EAC has a population of about 150 million people with land area of 1.82 million square kilometres and a combined gross domestic product of Sh7.4 trillion ($74.5 billion).

Africa’s population is currently estimated to be 1.4 billion while the world’s is at seven billion.

In the region, about 60 per cent of pollution related deaths are due to contaminated water or poor hygiene, 40 per cent due to indoor air pollution and one per cent due to outdoor air pollution, according to another UN World Population Prospects Report released four years earlier.

The bloc — comprising Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania — is endowed with many resources and income earners majorly from agriculture and livestock production, fisheries, mining, wildlife and tourism.

Rapid population growth has strained the countries’ budgets and ability to cater for the basic human rights including nutrition, health services, clean water and environment.

“Despite potentially grave consequences, demographic changes usually do not take centre stage in many macroeconomic policy discussions or debates,” states a 2014 World Bank report dubbed ‘Impact of Demographic Changes on Inflation and the Macro-economy’.

“Demographic changes are one of the most crucial long-term challenges that will have a grave influence on the economy….using a regression analysis, this paper found that population growth affects real economic variables on the negative side,” says the report.

Ms Jesca Eriyo, the deputy secretary-general of the EAC, says the factors leading to high population were related to high fertility due to good environment and plenty of food.

“If we don’t control the number of children we are giving birth to, poverty levels will grow. This requires re-alignment of policies, processes and systems and sharing of resources for coordinated actions,” she said during the 2015 Sectoral Council of Ministers meeting for Lake Victoria Basin Council in Kisumu recently.

She added that it was also life threatening for a woman to give birth to more than eight children.

Source: Business Daily