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Faith Nyasuguta 

The president of Egypt,  Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, has said that the nation needs to slow its birth rate to avoid a catastrophe.

He noted that Egypt has to lower its annual births to 400,000 from the current more than two million for the country to efficiently provide jobs and social services to its citizens.

Mr al-Sisi also faulted remarks by Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt’s health and population minister, that “having children is a matter of complete freedom”.

“Leaving their freedom to people who potentially do not know the extent of the challenge? In the end, it is the whole of society and the Egyptian state which will pay the price,” said Mr al-Sisi, who was speaking at the first Global Congress on Population, Health and Development

“We must organise this freedom otherwise it will create a catastrophe,” he added.

He hinted that Egypt could emulate China’s one-child policy, since China “succeeded in their population control policy”.

Since 2000, the population of Egypt, one of Africa’s most populous countries, has grown by 40 million to reach 105 million people, according to Mr Abdel Ghaffar.

Mr al-Sisi also said that other African countries should adopt population control measures as the continent lacks enough resources for its surging population.

In March the Egyptian government announced that it plans to pay 1,000 Egyptian pounds (roughly $32) annually to married women who have two children or less, under a protocol that was signed this month between the Finance and Planning and Economic Development ministries. This is in an effort to stem population growth,

The cash is set to be disbursed under an incentive program initiated by the government to reduce the fertility rate for women ages 21 to 45.

Each woman with two children or less will get the accumulated amount when she turns 45 based on her age when she joins the program. The woman, however, will lose her right to claim any amount if she gives birth to a third child.

The incentive program is meant to be part of the National Project for Development of the Egyptian Family, which aims to tackle the overpopulation by improving demographic characteristics.

Planning Minister Hala al-Saeed said on the sidelines of the signing ceremony that the program aims to slow down the population growth and consequently improve the living conditions of Egyptian citizens.

A country of over 104 million, Egypt is the most populous nation in the Arab world and the third-largest in Africa, according to the state statistics agency, CAPMAS.

According to a study prepared by the United Nations Population Fund, the fertility rate per woman in Egypt was 5.6 births in the 1970s before it dropped to 3 births in 2008, thanks to government efforts to curb population growth. 

The rate, however, rose again to 3.5 births in 2014 in the wake of political unrest that followed the uprising that unseated President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, before it declined again to 2.8 births in 2022.

A 2014 study by the Egypt Demographic and Health Survey showed that around 59% of married women in Egypt were using contraceptives. This percentage rose to 66% in 2021.

In 2022, Egypt’s population rose to around 1.6 million, according to CAPMAS. The agency estimates that the country’s population will reach 192 million by 2052 if current growth rates continue. However, it says this projection could be reduced to 143 million if state efforts to reduce fertility rates are intensified.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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