Thursday, September 03, 2009

Kenya's population growth: time for the China solution?

We are poor nation in money terms.

  • Kenya's population stands at around 40mn having doubled over the last 25 years.
  • It’s growing at 2% per year which means it is on schedule to double in 2050.
  • In real terms, our GDP has stood still since 1995 in real terms (that is 2002-2006 was merely to get us on even keel with 1997 and before and years since have been eroded by double-digit inflation). The economy as its structured currently can't double in that period.
  • 65% of our population ekes a living from agriculture. Though this percentage will decrease in term, the total rural population will still account for around 50% by 2050
  • Only 8% of Kenya's land is arable
  • Without a sharp reversal, the current environmental degradation coupled with land issues, may well reduce this proportion of arable land to around 6%.

China was faced with similar circumstances in early 70s, its population having doubled within a period of 30years and with a static economy and agriculture growth. It worked what was its optimal carrying capacity based on its ability to feed its people (given arable land, land and economy growth potential) and instituted what is today known as the "one-child". It was actually more nuanced than that i.e. the one-child policy only applied to urban cities and didn't explicitly preclude having more than one child.

Is the population control needed for Kenya? Well, going above, a definitive yes. Is a China-type policy practical? Yes, GoK would offer to educate one child for free all the way to secondary school provided the parent/s only had the one. The parents would then have to pay for any additional ones.

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