Population Time Bomb Threatens Economy of Uganda

Kampala, Uganda — UGANDA’s current population growth rate is worrying, the Population Secretariat has said. The secretariat has warned that the population explosion rate, which is over 3 percent, is inversely proportional to the rate at which the economy is growing.

“We would like to note with concern that the current rate at which Uganda’s population is growing is overwhelming,” the POPSEC Director, Mr Jotham Musinguzi, said. He told Daily Monitor in an interview on March 7, that the major concern, according to their statistics, was that the increase in the number of people was not reflecting a proportionate growth of the economy.

“The general increase in the population is not, in any case, showing improvement in the country’s economic performance. For instance, 13 million people need jobs this year and by 2010 when the population is expected to stand at 33 million, the number of job seekers will increase to 15 million,” Musinguzi said.

“Where will the jobs for all those millions of people come from yet even the current overwhelming figure is still unemployed?” he asked. However, the Deputy Executive Director of Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Mr James Mubiru, challenged the conclusion saying the country’s population growth rate statistics indicate a thin decrease.

“I agree with the fact that we are not doing well as far as reducing population growth but, at least the recent census indicates a slight decrease from the usual 3.3 to 3.2 percent,” he told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview on March 7.

Mubiru said the reduction was based on a demographic principle that Kotido district had registered a shortfall of 200,000 people from the previous total population of 591,000 to 377,000, which empirical observation, gives UBOS the conclusion that the growth rate was reducing.

But, Musinguzi claims the country still faces the rate of population growth as a major threat given the fact that Uganda continues to register an average increase of 1.5 million people annually.

If the current population growth rate estimated at 3.3 percent remains unchecked, the country will have a total population of 55 million by 2025, meaning about 28 million people, which is the approximate total population this year will be jobless.

Asked whether POSEC had a strategy to check the looming crisis, Musinguzi said they were quickly reviewing the national population policy to reflect appropriate strategies that would address the identified challenges.

He explained that under the new policy, which is expected to be out by July this year, priority would be given to provision of adequate infrastructure, proper planning for urbanisation as well as attracting investment to help the government easily provide employment and social services like education, health, water and sanitation.

Mr Davis Ddamulira, a senior policy analyst, doubted the aforementioned steps by POPSEC saying their policies are influenced by the factor of dependence.

“The current policies are not suitable because the government tends to over depend on the private sector and the donors,” Ddamulira said, adding that it should come out critically to support local investors whose businesses employ the majority of Ugandans.

He said creating a suitable environment for investment by the local population would encourage more investment where even persons at the grassroots would have an income generating activity to sustain their livelihood.

According to 2002 census, Uganda had a population of 24.7 million, which now is estimated at 28 million. According to the July 2005 estimates, Kenya has a total population of 33.8 million while Tanzania has 36.7 million.

However, the estimates for both countries explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to HIV/Aids. Contrary to the Millennium Development Goals targets; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.

The score sheet developed after intensive countrywide research by the Uganda National NGO Forum shows some progress on some MDG goals, low score in others as well as dismal failures on others. There was, for instance, good progress on Universal Primary Education and HIV/Aids, but a very low score on Women’s empowerment and relatively no progress made to reduce Child and Maternal Mortality since the 1970s.

Regardless of the predicted crisis, the Uganda Manufacturers Association claims it was preparing itself to avert any negative implications that would arise as a result of sharp population increase.

UMA Chairman, Mr Abid Alam, said their strategies were focusing on creating an economically viable Uganda with potential to sustain her population with emphasis put on creation of more employment opportunities by fully utilising the natural resources.

News Source: The Monitor (Uganda)

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