Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kenya's 38.6 Million Question

Kenya’s population is in an exponential growth phase. In 1969, there were 10.9 million Kenyans. In 1989, the population grew to 21.4 million. Today there are 38. 6 million card holding Kenyans. This is up from 28.7 in 1999.

To put these numbers into perspective, our current population works to a density of 67.8 persons per square kilometer. The United Kingdom with less than half Kenya’s territory has a population density of 254.2 persons per square kilometer. Similarly, Japan has a population density of 336 persons per square kilometer. Our neighbor Tanzania has a density of 46.3 persons per square kilometer.

I am not sure that the number 38.6 million is the thing to worry about. Kenya is under populated, at least in gross terms.

A whooping $103 million was spent to conduct the population and housing census. When the results of the census were announced, the media went to town with detailed reporting on the demographics of ethnicities, religious groupings and yes, which county is the most populous.

I am not sure I would have expected more from the Kenyan media houses. They love to fan passions, ethnic or religious. To be fair to them, they lack the capacity to analyze and communicate demographic data. More importantly, they are in the business of selling not educating or informing. If they do, it is only incidental.

What should the country worry or think about the census results?

Should we worry about the tribe with the highest numbers? Or should we worry about whether Muslims or Christians or Hindus are the majority?

The politicians are certainly smarter. They have their mouth where their money will come from. They want more constituencies. It is our own gerrymandering –politicians get to choose their voters.

Here are the demographic patterns we should be poring over.

1.26.12 million Kenyans (67.7 %) live in the rural areas, where 80 % of them rely on ponds, springs, streams and wells for their drinking water.

2.There are 8.4 million girls compared to 8.2 million boys below age 14. Conversely, in the 15 to 64-age category, there are 10.1 million females compared to 10.5 million males.

3.For kids above age 3 attending school, there are 9.4 million in primary school compared to only 1.8 million attending secondary school. What is most disconcerting is that there only a paltry 198,119 young Kenyans (0.5 % of the total population) enrolled in university.

4.Men dominate women in all urban areas. This has implications on women’s access to key services and opportunities (e.g., health, education, employment etc.). It also begs the question, who is running Kenya’s rural smallholder agricultural base?

5.We have added about 8 million people to urban centers across the country since 1990. This explains the sprawl and the squalor of most of our urban neighborhoods.

6.How do these numbers square with the dreams and visions we have for 2030?

I will obtain the full census report in the coming week and hope to look way beyond tribe or religion or county.

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