Christianity’s explosive growth in Kenya

A nation’s rapid population growth and its complex religious impacts

One of the most important shifts within Christianity over the last century is demographic change—especially the vastly increased share of the global population now concentrated in legendarily religious Africa. The number of African Christians grew from 10 million in 1900 to half a billion in 2015, and it is due to reach a billion no later than the 2040s. By that point, in terms of raw numbers, Africa will be by far the largest Christian continent. That is a revolutionary shift in the world’s religious map.

To understand these statistics and their implications for Christianity, let’s look at one country that has seen incredible growth almost from nothing. When the 20th century began, the East African lands that would become the nation of Kenya had a tiny population of 1.5 million. That number then grew spectacularly. National population reached ten million by 1966 and 30 million by the end of the century. Today it is 50 million.

The country has one of the world’s youngest populations. Some 40 percent of Kenyans are below the age of 15, with another 20 percent between 15 and 24. Such a young profile portends high population growth. By 2050, Kenya could have 95 million people, making it substantially more populous than any single European nation and only a little smaller than Japan.