Uganda grapples with high population to fast track dev't

Uganda has one of world's youngest populations, with 75 percent of people below the age of 30

Uganda grapples with high population to fast track dev't

Uganda has one of world's youngest populations, with 75 percent of people below the age of 30

11 July 2018 Wednesday 14:13
Uganda grapples with high population to fast track dev't

OMORO, Uganda

As the world commemorated World Population Day on Wednesday, Uganda is striving to use its high population to fast track economic development.

Uganda has one of world's youngest populations, with 75 percent of people below the age of 30 and 58 percent under the age of 20, according to government figures.

The country also has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, with a woman giving birth to an average of 5.4 children.

The country's current population of 38 million people is likely to swell to 55 million people by 2025, according to government projections.

This high population growth, despite the challenges it presents, can also be an opportunity for Uganda to fast track its development.

Population experts say for Uganda to harness a sizeable demographic dividend, it must intensify investments in education, skill development, sexual and reproductive health, and job creation for the youths.

Jotham Musinguzi, Director General of National Population Council, a state agency, argued that these investments are critical for the country to achieve sustainable social and economic development.

He said the investments coupled with economic reforms can stimulate innovative productivity to increase the purchasing power of the population.

David Bahati, state minister of finance in charge of planning, said the government is aware of the challenges of a high population and that is why it is prioritizing skilling of young people so that they could fulfill the demand for skilled workers in the country.

He said the government is focusing on vocational education and imparting market-relevant skills in a bid to create an innovative and entrepreneurial workforce.

Matia Kasaija, minister of finance, planning, and economic development, on June 14 said over the next one year, six technical colleges and institutes will get international standards accreditation.

He said renovations at various universities and technical colleges have been completed and ready to take in new entrants.

Kasaija said non-formal training programs have been undertaken to enable youths without formal training acquire practical skills.

"During the year, 14,620 youths of whom 8,580 are female, have been trained in Agriculture, Construction, Manufacturing, Tourism and Hospitality skills," Kasaija said while reading the country's budget for this financial year, which stated on July 1.

Experts argue that as Uganda strives to skill its youthful population, there must be efforts to ensure that the number of dependents reduces.

They say the demographic dividend can be attained if the working age population is bigger than the dependents and is appropriately skilled, healthy and has jobs.

Alain Sibenaler, the representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Uganda, said in a statement ahead of the World Population Day that there is need to increase investment in family planning.

Studies, according to Sibenaler, have shown that investing in family planning reduces poverty, increases participation in education and gives women a greater say in their households and communities.

The 2014 Demographic Dividend Report shows that investment in family planning would accelerate fertility decline, and coupled with mortality decline, the ratio of working-age adults would significantly increase relative to young dependents, thus propelling Uganda to economic growth.

Sibenaler said despite the known benefits of family planning, one in three women still lacks access to family planning services.

He urged Uganda to increase its expenditure on family planning. Uganda's expenditure on family planning is currently estimated at 18 million U.S. dollars annually, according to UNFPA.

Besides increasing funding towards family planning, experts argue that there is a need to improve the quality of services by promoting interactions between communities, health systems, government and its partners.

They say there is a need to have access to high-quality family planning services.


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