Egypt, already the most populous country in the Middle East region, is expected to see a population boom during the coming 30 years, with a recently released UN report expecting the number of Egyptians to increase by 60 million by 2050.
The annual increase will be by two per cent, it said.
World Population Prospects, the UN study, highlights a comprehensive set of demographic data to assess population trends at the global, regional and national levels and many other key indicators commonly used by the UN system.
With a projected addition of 1.1 billion people, the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa could account for more than half of the growth in the world’s population between 2019 and 2050, the study says.
By contrast, Eastern and South-East Asia, Central and Southern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Northern America are projected to reach peak population size and to start losing population before the end of the present century. The size of the global population is set to increase to reach 11 billion by the end of the century.
Following the population increases in Egypt over the past five years, the study extrapolates to the country’s population reaching almost 225 million by the end of this century. Egypt thus follows the lead of India, the country with the highest population growth and expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2050, and a number of countries in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Tanzania.
Its annual rate of population growth is four times that of China, where the population is expected to increase by only 31,000 within the same 30-year period. Officially registered births reveal that Egypt’s population has already exceeded 100 million, with over half being under the age of 25 and only five per cent 65 and above.
Egypt could slow the pace of the increase and thus halt its negative repercussions if it adopted the right policies, said Heba Al-Leithi, a professor of statistics at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science in Cairo.
Last year, Egypt adopted the Itneen Kefaya (Two is Enough) birth-control programme, with the two-year campaign seeking to target 1.2 million women in 10 governorates to raise their awareness of contraception methods.
This was with the help of 100 NGOs, which are providing the Ministry of population with trained volunteers in order to spread door-to-door messages to the targeted families. The programme is also supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has given LE10 million for the training of doctors and nurses who will work in clinics as well as provide contraceptive methods.
However, in order for such campaigns to be really effective, Al-Leithi stressed that Egypt would need to improve and diversify its birth-control strategies.
“We are mainly limited to one method, which is the use of local campaigns for raising people’s awareness. These are required, but they are not the most effective method of birth control,” she said.
“China focused on strict polices, for example, while other countries focus on education as a preventive tool to halt population increase.”
The “Two is Enough” campaign relies on three pillars: door-to-door visits; advertisements; and establishing birth-control medical units in remote areas, as well as providing existing ones with contraceptive methods.
However, Al-Leithi said there was still a need to improve the educational curriculum and the health insurance system, in addition to local campaigns, if the programme was to reach its target.
“Many people give birth to large numbers of children, send them out to work, and rely on them as a source of income. They can even set them to work at the age of ten and ask them to work to provide for their parents,” Al-Leithi said.
“If we can provide people with alternatives to that, we can reduce the rates of population growth in Egypt,” she concluded.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: 60 million more Egyptians by 2050