Egypt’s Overpopulation Battle
Amid an acute economic crisis, Egypt’s government, led by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, continues to battle the country’s spiralling population growth.
According to Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics, the population stands at just over 112 million, an increase of 10 million people in just 6 years.
At the Global Health, Population and Development Congress, held in Cairo in mid- September 2023, President Al-Sisi declared that population growth is currently one of the gravest issues facing Egypt and warned of its potential impact on his country and on the African continent as a whole.
The President stressed that: “The annual population growth rate must remain at 400,000 over the next 20 years” in order to prevent a “catastrophe,” particularly in light Egypt’s dire economic situation. He praised the Chinese model of population control, saying: “The Chinese adopted the one-child policy in 1968, and in 2015 China officially canceled this policy and allowed couples to have two children… this policy was a success.”
Al-Sisi also criticised statements made by Egypt’s health and population minister, Khaled Abd Al-Ghaffar. The minister had stated that people in Egypt are free to have children, causing the President to respond that, “eventually society as a whole, and the Egyptian state, will pay the price.”
Earlier this year (in June 2023), on a visit to the Al-Buhayrah Governorate, President Al-Sisi said: “In 1953 there were 19-20 million of us in Egypt. In the time of President Sadat we reached 40 million and in 2011 we were about 80 million. Today we are at 112 million. A baby is born about every 15 seconds, that is four children every minute.”
And in December 2022, at the inauguration of the new city of Mansoura, President Al-Sisi warned that “the population growth will swallow the country”.
Egypt’s concern, and the driver behind setting a course for a sustainable population, is the pressure currently being placed on the nation’s finite resources and infrastructure. The primary concerns include increasing levels of resource consumption, urbanisation of agricultural areas, the collapse of public services, rising housing costs and increased unemployment.
Water stress is a particular issue, with Egypt’s annual per capita share of water now estimated to be down to 500 cubic metres. This figure is considered by The World Bank to be the absolute water scarcity threshold.