The Role of Policy Environment in Fertility Change in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of Kenya and Malawi

Eliya M. Zulu, African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC)
Chiweni E. Chimbwete, Africa Center for Health and Population Studies
Susan Watkins, University of Pennsylvania
Gloria Chepngeno, African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC)

During the 1960s-1980s global population actors such as the United Nations and the World Bank urged third world governments to adopt population policies in order to contain rapid population growth. This paper compares the responses of Kenya and Malawi, two countries with quite different policy histories and demographic profiles, to these international pressures. We describe the evolution of policy using interviews with Kenyans and Malawians who participated in developing the policies. We also describe the process of change in fertility-related behavior and its relationship to program indicators using data from national surveys conducted between 1978 and 1998, and longitudinal survey data collected in rural Kenya and Malawi between 1995 and 2001. We conclude that ideational change and an enabling socio-economic environment for programs, rather than the adoption of a population policy per se, are the most critical factors driving the timing and pace of fertility transitions in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Presented in Session 58: Fertility Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa