The People of East Africa

East Africa’s population in mid-2012 was estimated at 144 million people, representing an increase of five million from 139 million in 2010. Birth registrations in East Africa are low. The percentage of registered births among East Africa’s poorest households indicate that at best, a little over half of children born into poor families are formally ‘invisible’. Tanzania registers the arrival of less than one in twenty of its poorest babies.

East Africa is young. The median age in East Africa – the age that divides the population exactly into two equal halves above and below it – ranges from 15 years in Uganda to 19 years in Kenya and Rwanda. More than 62 per cent of East Africans are younger than 25 years of age. According to various surveys young East Africans are hungriest for cash and material affluence, but ‘work’ scored lowest under what they considered to be ‘the most important things in life.’

The rate of urbanization across East Africa is growing at between 4 and 5 per cent each year. At these growth rates, the number of people in the region’s cities will double by 2013, with most of them living in the region’s unplanned urban areas.
East Africans are, on average, living longer. In 2011 the region’s average life expectancy was 55 years, up from 51 in 2005. However, with the exception of Rwanda, surveys show that around 90 per cent of East Africans had no medical insurance at all. On the other hand, over 80 per cent of all children are vaccinated against the deadliest childhood diseases.

Malnutrition in East Africa manifests itself most clearly in the 10 million East African children,42 per cent of the region’s 24 million under-5 who were stunted in 2010. Northeastern Burundi,Dodoma (Tanzania) and Karamoja (Uganda) are the worst places for children in East Africa from a nutritional point of view.
All East African countries have achieved the global target of 100 per cent gross enrolment at theprimary school level. However, enrolment in secondary school is much lower at between 28 per centin Uganda and 49 per cent in Kenya. Many secondary school age children do not make the transition between primary and secondary school. Uganda and Rwanda have the highest primary school leaving exam pass rates at over 83 per cent in 2012, while Tanzanian and Kenyan students produced the worst results in East Africa with just 58 per cent and 53 per cent respectively of primary school leavers passing in 2011. A far lower proportion (less than 30 per cent in 2012) of Kenyan and Tanzanian secondary school students pass their respective national exams compared to their peersin Rwanda and Uganda where more than 88 per cent passed.

However, in the global ranking of pedagogical quality, Tanzania and Burundi fared poorly in the quality of math and science education compared to Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda. Indeed, with the exception of Rwanda, all East African countries are in the bottom half of the global rankings. This points to a very significant structural impediment to transforming East Africa’s economies in the direction of skill- and knowledge-based innovation.