Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics announced that the country’s population reached the 100 million milestone today, February 11, 2020. For most, it is not a day to celebrate.
Egypt’s population is growing by nearly 2 percent—about 2 million people—a year. By 2050, according to the UN’s median projection, the population could be 160 million, and by 2100, it could be 225 million. In a country with its population already squeezed onto a narrow ribbon of fertile land along the Nile River, this level of growth is unimaginable.
Government officials are well aware of the detrimental effects population growth has on health, development, education, employment, and environmental sustainability goals. Indeed, then-Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali told Reuters last year, “We are faced with scarcity in water resources … scarcity in jobs, job creation, and we need to really control this population growth so that people can feel the benefits of development.”
What’s behind this rapid population growth? A fertility rate that’s still quite high, compared to other countries in the region. At 3.5 births per woman (down from 5.3 in 1980, but up from 3.0 in 2008), Egypt’s fertility rate is higher than any nearby country except Sudan. This is partially due to high desired fertility in the poorer, more rural parts of the country, but it’s also due to lower financial and technical investments in family planning programs in recent years.
USAID stopped providing family planning assistance to Egypt in 2007, but resumed aid in 2017, funding the Strengthening Egypt’s Family Planning Program (SEFPP) at $19 million over five years, through 2022. A summary of the program states:
The Government of Egypt has identified population growth as one of the biggest challenges facing Egypt, and it has expressed a desire to strengthen its family planning and reproductive health services. In response, USAID provides technical assistance and training for Ministry of Health and Population staff to improve the quality of voluntary family planning services and information, in an effort to stem the rapid total fertility rate in Egypt.
At the program’s launch, USAID/Egypt Mission Director Sherry Carlin said, “We know that USAID family planning programs have made tremendous impact in the past. We stand poised again to be a part of the solution to the rapid growth in Egypt’s fertility rate.”
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Social Solidarity Ministry launched an initiative last year called “Two Is Enough,” which aims to voluntarily reduce the country’s fertility rate to 2.4 by 2030. The Egyptian government is hoping that a combination of improved contraceptive options offered at hospitals and public and private clinics and messaging that normalizes smaller families will encourage couples to have fewer children. For the sake of Egypt’s people, current and future, we hope so too.
- Population growth rate and projection data are from the United Nations Population Division 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects.
- A UNFPA Egypt study from 2019 determined that the 2018 fertility rate had declined to 3.1, according to data from Egypt’s electronic vital registration system.
- USAID funded a smaller project to increase private sector access to family planning for Egyptian youth from October 2016-September 2018, at $4 million.