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Women in Kenya are having the lowest number of children per head in the East Africa region, a study by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) in the United States has found.

The ‘fertility rate’, or more simply, the number of children born per woman, is 3.9 in Kenya, compared with the highest rate in the region of 5.5 per woman in Burundi.

The PRB’s statistics for fertility rates in each East Africa Country are : Burundi 5.5; Uganda 5.4; Tanzania 5.2; Ethiopia 4.6; Rwanda 4.2; and Kenya 3.9.

By way of comparison, the average fertility rate for countries in Africa is 4.6 children per woman and globally, 2.5.

Kenya’s fertility rate has dropped quite sharply in recent years, from 8.1 children per woman in 1978 to the current rate of 3.9.

The falling birth rate in Kenya could having something to do with higher level of education, particularly among women; changes in lifestyle as more women opt to have children later in life, and the increasing use of contraceptives.


However, Kenyan women may be having fewer children but the country’s population is forecast to nearly double over the next 30 years, to 96 million (compared to 49 million now) by 2050. That’s because families are smaller now but there are many more of them.

So Kenya’s birthrate is falling but lo and behold the proportion of Kenya’s that is categorised as ‘youth’ (15-24) is among the highest in the world.

The ratio of ‘youth’ in Kenya is now some 20.3 per cent of the population, over 10 million of the country’s population. That stands against an average in Africa of 19.2 per cent and 15.3 per cent globally.

This in turn suggest that the growth in Kenya’s population in the coming years will be strong (more young people reaching child-producing age).

All these factors will have economic and social consequences. A growing, young population could be harnessed as a significant factor in economic growth but alternatively, if unemployment, especially among the youth, remains high, it produce the breeding ground of crime social upheaval. Kenya’s current youth unemployment rate stands at 17.3 per cent according to the World Bank, compared with six per cent in Uganda and Tanzania.


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