How EAC countries shoulder dependency burden

East Africa enjoys robust growth as the economies continue with post-COVID-19 recovery since 2021. The future looks bright amid global uncertainties and the region is expected to post the highest growth in the continent.

African Development Bank says in its 2023 East Africa Economic Outlook report that the region will register the highest regional economic performance on the continent in 2023 and 2024, with growth figures at over 5 per cent.

The report launched July, projects mid-term economic growth in the region to accelerate to 5.1 per cent in 2023 and 5.8 per cent in 2024, outpacing all the other African regions. This will be largely driven by growth in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

Writing for the Euromonitor International, Fransua Vytautas Razvadauskas says the balance of economic power is shifting east in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2040, East Africa is projected to account for 29 per cent of the region’s GDP – up from 21 per cent in 2022 and just 14 per cent in 2000.

However, despite the impressive growth prospects, the region faces major challenges including widespread poverty, and rapid population growth from decades of high fertility.

UNICEF says in its Demographic Fast Facts about Eastern and Southern 2023 Update survey that Eastern and Southern African region is experiencing a demographic boom with a total population expected to exceed one billion around 2050 and 1.5 billion by 2090 from approximately 580 million people in 2023.

A rapid increase in population is linked with a high dependency ratio meaning those of working age, and the overall economy, face a greater burden in supporting the young and the elderly. Demographers say there is youth dependency ratio which includes those only under 15, and the elderly dependency ratio focuses on those over 64.

A high dependency ratio indicates stress on the economy as the dependent population is too large to be supported by the workforce. A low dependency ratio on the other hand is desirable because it indicates that there are proportionally more adults of working age who can support the young and the elderly of the population.

According to World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources, the age dependency ratio in Africa was 78 percent in 2021. This meant that there were around 78 people aged 0-14 years and 65 years and older per 100 working-age population (aged 15-64 years).

The ratio on the continent generally declined from 2000 onwards, determining a reduced burden for the working-age population.

Below is a snapshot of age dependency ratio in East African Community member states:

Tanzania

The 2022 Population and Housing Census shows age dependency ratio in Tanzania was 87.1 per cent meaning there are around 87 people aged 0-14 years and 65 years and older per 100 working-age population (aged 15-64 years).

The ratio had grown from 85.06 per cent in 2021 after it had declined from 90 per cent in 2000.

The average value for Tanzania from 1960 to 2022 was 93.77 percent with a minimum of 86.78 percent in 2022 and a maximum of 100.91 percent in 1984.

Tanzania has a very low median age with more than 44.8 per cent of the population under 15, About 52 per cent between 15 and 64 and just 3.1 per cent over the age of 64.

Kenya

Age dependency ratio in Kenya was reported at 68.59 per cent in 2022, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.

The average value for Kenya from 1960 to 2022 is 99.87 percent with a minimum of 68.59 percent in 2022 and a maximum of 118.87 percent in 1976.

In 2022, about 37.81 percent of Kenya’s total population was aged 0 to 14 years down from 38.4 per cent in 2021 and 38.97 per cent in 2020.

The proportion of young dependents in Kenya is declining while that of working age is increasing leading to a decreasing age dependency ratio.

The working-age population is 59.32 per cent in 2023 up from 58.76 per cent in 2021 and 58.22 per cent in 2020.

Uganda

With 90.6 per cent of age dependency ratio in 2021, Uganda had the second highest ratio in the region. However it declined to 86.83 per cent in 2022.

The average value for Uganda from 1960 to 2022 is 102.43 percent with a minimum of 86.83 percent in 2022 and a maximum of 111.48 percent in 2001.

DR Congo

It has the highest age dependency ratio of 94.71 per cent in 2021 meaning there are around 95 people aged 0-14 years and 65 years and older per 100 working-age population (aged 15-64 years).

The average value for Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1960 to 2022 is 91.83 percent with a minimum of 83.95 percent in 1963 and a maximum of 98 percent in 2020. The latest value from 2022 is 97.85 percent.

Burundi

Age dependency ratio  in Burundi was reported at 93.25 per cent in 2022, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators.

The average value for Burundi from 1960 to 2022 was 97.11 percent with a minimum of 89.29 percent in 2009 and a maximum of 115.89 percent in 1994. The latest value from 2022 is 93.25 percent.

Rwanda

Age dependency ratio (per cent of working-age population) in Rwanda was reported at 71.42 per cent in 2022. The average value for Rwanda from 1960 to 2022 was 95.13 percent with a minimum of 71.42 percent in 2022 and a maximum of 113.3 percent in 1995.

South Sudan

Age dependency ratio in South Sudan was reported at 87.81 per cent in 2022, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.

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