Uganda population bomb ticking: Comment
October 10th 2012
Uganda enters its next 50 years of self-rule with its reputation as a demographic renegade well and truly intact, thanks to a mind-boggling fertility rate (the average number of children a woman can have in her lifetime), which the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) put at 6.2 in 2011. One of the highest in the world, Uganda’s fertility rate is the stand-out catalyst to the Malthusian disaster on which the country awkwardly squats. The narrative would have been different, demographers contend, had President Museveni taken a lead role in advocating smaller families. Instead, between 1995 and 2006, when fertility rates in notoriously childbirth-happy sub-Saharan Africa were on a down slope, Uganda’s fecundity was stalling at 6.7 in the face of Museveni’s message that vociferously hailed a large population.
Currently, the average fertility rate for sub-Saharan African countries stands at 4.64 – a high statistic by any measure, but one which would have been a bit lower were it not for the shenanigans of entities like Uganda. Not that there haven’t been any positive demographic strides in Uganda. Between 2006 and 2011, the country was rattled out of its stall with the fertility rate falling from 6.7 to 6.2. The UDHS posits that this fall was largely because of a paradigm shift in the apprehension of all things demographic by urbanites whose fertility fell steeply from 5.0 in 1995 to 3.8 in 2011. Whether the predisposition of Ugandan urbanites to smaller families (remember 3.8 is still some way off the 2.1 replacement rate of fertility) will haul Uganda out of a Malthusian abyss and place it on a right path is anyone’s guess. For the moment, though, Museveni’s message of a big workforce coming in handy (reinforced by mantras like: your job is to produce children) appears to be striking a chord with rural dwellers whose environs are downright labour-intensive (the more children one has the greater the ability to dot their arable land with plantations of matooke). It is, therefore, highly unlikely that rural dwellers will in the next so many decades have the same buy-in plugs for birth control as did the urbanites that between 1995 and 2011 doubled their contraceptive use from 15% to 30%.
Owing to this, Uganda’s demography in its next 50 years of self-rule will be uniquely disturbing. It will be disturbing because the United Nations, for one, estimates that Uganda’s population will soar from 33 million people in 2011 to 94 million in 2050 – a stunning rise by all accounts. This stunning rise will be counter-productive, demographers say, because it won’t leave the country anywhere close to the threshold of enjoying a demographic dividend (the economic benefit raked when the fraction of the working-age population increases relative to children and old people). A high fertility (6.2) and low mortality (85 deaths for every 1,000 live births) squarely puts paid to any hope of a demographic dividend coming to fruition.
Red the full article: The Observer
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