Populations will surge in the coming decades in East African countries, with Tanzania and Uganda overtaking Kenya by the end of this century, the United Nations reported on Wednesday.
Kenya’s current population of nearly 50 million is projected to reach 95 million in 2050 and 142 million by the start of the 22nd century.
Uganda, with 43 million people today, will surpass Kenya by 2050, the UN says. Close to 106 million Ugandans will be alive at mid-century and more than twice that number (214 million) by 2100, the UN calculates.
Tanzania, already the most populous of the three East Africa neighbours, will see its current population of 57 million swell to 138 million by mid-century and to more than 300 million by 2100, according to UN estimates.
Rwanda’s current population of 12 million will grow to nearly 22 million by 2050 and to 28 million by the end of this century, according to the UN.
Uganda’s and Tanzania’s anticipated rates of increase are so steep that they will be among the 10 countries in the world that are collectively expected to account for more than half the projected global population increase in the next three decades.
Tanzania’s growth will make it the world’s 14th largest country by 2050, the UN foresees. Uganda will by then rank 18th and Kenya 20th.
Nigeria will be the third most populous country at mid-century, with its anticipated 411 million people exceeded only by India’s 1.7 billion and China’s 1.4 billion.
The forecast of a near-doubling of Africa’s overall population — from 1.3 billion people today to 2.5 billion by mid-century — raises questions of whether the continent will actually enjoy the benefits of a largely youthful population touted by some African leaders.
“Countries with relatively high ratios of working to dependent populations have the possibility of benefiting from a ‘demographic dividend’,” the UN report notes.
But it adds that the dividend is predicated on there being “sufficient opportunities for productive engagement in the labour force by the expanded working-age population.”
“Success in this regard requires sufficient investment in the human capital of children and youth through universal access to education and healthcare,” the report adds.
Currently, 60 per cent of Africans are aged under 24, the UN points out.
Total world population now stands at nearly 7.6 billion, up from 7.4 billion in 2015. At this rate, the UN projects, global population will reach 8.6 billion in 2030, almost 10 billion in 2050 and more than 11 billion in 2100.