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Population boom needs a stopper

This came to the fore when the Governor addressed the 14th African Economic Research Consortium (AER)’s Senior Policy Seminar under the theme “Health, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction,” in Dar es Salaam. The population growth rate of Dar es Salaam stands at an average of 4 per cent, while population growth rate of Tanzania is 2.9 per cent.

The Governor said that a good number of people migrating to urban areas are young people looking for work and most often have neither the capital nor the skills for engaging in gainful business. Tanzania’s population is largely young, both rural and urban and is extremely dependent, unskilled and far from competitive.

The youth have a poor attitude towards work, even those who are working. The Governor said it is therefore imperative that inclusive focusing on providing gainful work and income source to the growing number of urban unemployed particularly the youth. The Governor added, “The best chance we have to absorb this growing segment of the population is through self employment, mainly in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the informal sector.”

Tanzania is preparing to conduct a population and housing census scheduled for August, this year. Africa as a whole hosts more than its proportionate share of the world’s poor. Africans make up to 10 per cent of the world population but one out of every three poor persons in the world (spending less than USD 2 a day) resides in Africa. The UNECA report for 2010 indicates that the average life expectancy at birth for Africa is very low at 55 years for men and 57 years for women much lower than averages in other regions. HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria have continued to be the largest threats to livelihoods in Africa.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Tanzania Deputy Representative, Ms Mariam Khan says the population growth question is one of equity, opportunity and social justice. “Questions of equitable access to resources and opportunities are the questions society continuously confronts especially from the young. “In some of the poorest countries, high fertility rates hamper development and perpetuate poverty while in the richest countries, low fertility rates and too few people entering the labour market are concerns as well,” she observed.

Ms Khan stresses that in today’s interconnected world, individual decisions and actions especially about the number of children individuals and couples should have, will determine whether the earth’s population rises to 10 or 15 billion by end of the century. “The two numbers will have vastly different implications for access to services and impact to the environment,” she said. The deputy representative, however, noted that global trends show fertility averages have decreased from women bearing between five to six children in their lifetime in the 1950s to two or three today.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Tanzania’s population is growing by 1.3 million people per year. Presently at an estimated 44.5 million, it is projected to grow to 65m in just 14 years from now.Prof Ndulu said that the sharp rise in the rural-urban migration puts unnecessary stress on the delivery of essential services to the population. “About one third of Africa’s population now lives in urban areas and it is expected that about half of the population will be in urban areas by 2020,” he said.

Prof Ndulu says that despite the fairly impressive 7 per cent average GDP growth rate, income poverty (measuring private consumption expenditureexcluding on social services) has declined marginally to 33.4 per cent against the expected MDG target of 25 per cent. He says that to a very large extent this slow achievement is driven by the fact that agriculture on which 75 per cent of Tanzanians depend on for their livelihood grew at a low 4 per cent rate-barely above the approximately 3 per cent rural population growth rate.

“Thus, although the national income growth per capita averaged nearly 4 per cent over this period for the rural economy, it was a low 1 per cent-and poverty is significantly higher in rural areas,” he says. He says that income poverty in this country can not seriously be addressed without increasing significantly incomes from smallholder agriculture and from informal and SME activities to reduce the rapidly increasing number of the urban poor as rural–urban migration continues at a fast clip. The Governor said that African nations in addition to focusing on rural poverty now have to design interventions to identify the urban poor and complement private expenditure with public consumption for this group.

Urban concentrated populations present the agglomeration of economies for delivery of essential services -including health. The Governor feels that African countries should exploit this opportunity to deliver more cost effective services to reduce the burden of the delivery of public health. Winding up his presentation Prof Ndulu made it clear that as Africans we must strive to depend more on ourselves for sustained poverty reduction.

 

Mwagala Adventist Women Entrepreneurship Group in Misungwi District ...

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Mwandishi: ORTON KIISHWEKO

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