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UN report says number of elderly people in Africa is set to increase

Elderly people follow proceedings during the launch of Inua Jamii 70 and Above Cash Transfer Programme at Mweiga stadium in Nyeri county on July 5, 2017. file photo | nmg
Elderly people follow proceedings during the launch of Inua Jamii 70 and Above Cash Transfer Programme at Mweiga stadium in Nyeri county on July 5, 2017. file photo | nmg 

One little noted aspect of the recent UN World Population report was that Africa is likely to see a huge rise in the number of older people by the end of this century.

According to the latest UN report, the number of persons aged 60 or above in Africa is expected to rise from five per cent in 2017 to around nine per cent in 2050, and then to nearly 20 per cent by the end of the century.

With rapidly increasing population rates across Africa — by 2050 more than half of the global population growth will come from sub-Saharan Africa — this means African governments will not only have to support policies that enable massive employment creation across the region, but they will also eventually have to cater for increasing numbers of elderly people, Life expectancy in Kenya is projected to increase from 54 years today to 68 years by 2050. 

The good news is that as a result of these trends, the fastest growing population groups in Kenya are 15 to 64 years — “and these are exactly the population groups that work,”  according to Wolfgang Fengler, Lead Economist for the World Bank in Kenya. From only 22 million working-age people today, Kenya by 2050 will have about 56 million working-age people. The World Bank argues that in the short to medium term this will benefit Kenya because of the so-called “demographic dividend.”

This is because as fertility declines and people live longer, Kenyans will see a dramatic improvement in the “dependency ratio”: This means the proportion of the working-age population will grow much faster than the young and elderly population groups that depend on them. But the report says that  compared to 2017, the number of persons aged 60 or above is expected to more than double by 2050.

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