Economy

Treasury settles Sh1.9bn Moi-era population control loan

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The National Treasury building in Nairobi in this picture taken on March 15, 2023. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

The Treasury has paid the last instalment of a Sh1.9 billion loan the government of the late President Daniel Moi took to help with the reduction of population growth.

The payment made at the start of this month settles the $12 million (Sh1.9 billion at current exchange rates) that Kenya borrowed from the World Bank. The money was to be used for population control, especially family planning in rural areas, pointing to the country’s high fertility rate in the 1970s.

Four years later on August 1, 1984, the country began servicing the loan which was to be repayable in 80 semi-annual instalments at a rate of 1.5 percent, data from the Treasury shows.

Public Disclosure of 1981 by the World Bank shows that the purpose of the loan was for the ‘Kenya Population Project’ and sought to address high birth rates in rural Kenya. “An important objective of the project under review was to facilitate the long-term reduction of Kenya’s population growth rate through the development of the rural health system and the inclusion of family planning as an integral part of the maternal and child health services,” said the Bank.

Also read: More Kenyans opting for permanent birth control

The multilateral financier, which sponsored a lot of Kenya’s social programmes, added that this was in keeping with the government’s view that there is an association between declining fertility and decreasing morbidity and mortality.

“The emphasis on family planning was thus on the need for child spacing to secure the health of the mother and child,” added the World Bank.

Kenya had one of the highest fertility rates in the world in the 1970s, with a birth rate of eight children per woman, according to a policy brief by the National Council for Population and Development.

The high fertility rate was attributed to a good economy, good climate, large land holdings by families, and affordable essential commodities such as food, health care, housing and education.

Since then, Kenya has deployed a combination of strategies, including increased use of family planning to slow down the birth rates. According to the 2022 Demographic Health Survey, Kenyan women bear one child less on average compared to 14 years ago.

The decline has partly been attributed to women postponing first births and extending intervals between births to pursue education and careers.

As the level of education increases, women focus on careers and delay their desire for children, which has seen Kenya’s population growth rate dip to about two percent. The decline is reflected in the country’s fertility, which fell to 3.4 children per woman in 2022 from 4.6 children in 2008 and 6.7 children in 1989.

Read: Politics of population and wealth

The average number of children born to women with no education was 6.3 children per woman to 2.8 children per woman for those with more than secondary education. Women in the highest wealth quintile have 2.7 children on average against 5.3 children for women in the lowest wealth quintile.

Also, the number of women seeking permanent birth control procedures in Kenya increased by 13.5 percent in 2022.

About 4,107 women underwent Bilateral Tubal Ligation (BTL) procedures in 2022, an increase from 3,616 in the previous year. BTL creates permanent contraception.

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