Exponential Population Growth and Carrying Capacity of the Ethiopian Economy


By Tsegaye Tegenu, PhD
Email: tsegaye.tegenu@epmc.se


On July 5, 2013 the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia announced that the Ethiopian population has reached 86 million people. Seizing the occasion I would like to warn about the consequences of exponential population growth in Ethiopia. The mathematics and context of exponential population growth in Ethiopia signals alarm about an impending economic and population growth crash. Empirical evidences show that the Ethiopian population is growing exponentially beyond the accommodating capacity of the economy. According to my indicators and calculation, the Ethiopian population overshoots the country’s economic carrying capacity by 25 million people. The resource quantity and productivity level of the economy supports only 65% of the population (calculated on the basis of 2007 census data).

Most political and economic discussion on Ethiopia considers performance improvement, rate of implementation and governance as the most important factors affecting change. My view is that rapid population growth and its economic consequences are the most serious problems faced by the Ethiopian people. The focus on power struggle and market conditions could have been more important if death and fertility are equal, or nullify each other as in the cases of developed countries. But Ethiopia is now at historical stage of demographic transition and in economic planning number, size and speed matter above all else. In this summary essay I will explain the features of the exponential growth, estimate the carrying capacity of the economy, discuss current approaches to development reforms and make suggestions to avert the danger of “major proportion” collapse. The diagnosis of the problem and policy recommendations builds on earlier discussions (see reference).

Nature of Exponential Population Growth in Ethiopia
The nature of the exponential growth of the Ethiopia population can be explained in different ways: i) by a curve defined by an exponential equation (see figure 1), ii) by the rate of the population growth (see figure 2), and iii) through population doubling (see figure 2).

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