Egypt’s population officially hits 100 million

Most of the country’s population is crammed into urban areas near the Nile.
Tuesday 11/02/2020
A picture shows on February 11, 2020 a general view of al-Atba district of the Egyptian capital Cairo. (AFP)
A picture shows on February 11, 2020 a general view of al-Atba district of the Egyptian capital Cairo. (AFP)

CAIRO - Egypt’s fast-growing population hit 100 million people the official statistics agency announced, illustrating a pressing problem for an overburdened country with limited resources.

The staggering figure is an increase of 7 million since the publication of census results in 2017. Egypt’s population has tripled since 1960, with the annual growth rate peaking in 1987 at nearly 2.8%. The country is trying to cope with resurgent birth rates and what the World Bank calls a “youth bulge.” Egypt’s statistics agency estimated that those aged 18-29 comprise more than 20% of the population.

Most of the country’s population is crammed into urban areas near the Nile. Cairo and Giza province are home to a combined population of 19 million, officials said.

The milestone quickly set off alarms over further economic strain.

“The population problem is one of the biggest challenges facing the state,” said Hala el-Said, the minister of planning and economic development.

Egypt, the most populous Arab country, has been scrambling to stem its soaring birth rate — about 2 million a year — as economic discontent mounts with one-third of the country living in poverty. The government recently introduced an ambitious family planning campaign called “Two is Enough,” trying to challenge deep-rooted cultural traditions in rural areas, where contraception is scarce and children are viewed as a vital labour source and an insurance policy for old age.

To stave off economic collapse as part of a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has pushed ambitious reforms the past three years.

Tough austerity measures included slashed fuel subsidies and dramatically hiked prices of everything from subway fares to utility costs. The benefits have yet to trickle down to working-class Egyptians who are struggling to cover their basic needs. The youth unemployment rate hovers around 34%, the World Bank reported.

In a news conference February 11, Said warned that unchecked growth would compound the country’s concerns, leading to a decline in “per capita share of housing, educational and health services and job creation.”

Sisi has repeatedly lectured Egyptians about the perils of overpopulation, describing it in one speech as “among the biggest threats facing Egypt,” along with terrorism.

(The Associated Press)