By Anne Mugisa and Cathy Mwesigwa
President Yoweri Museveni has cautioned that the population issue in Africa should be put in its proper context and discussed without complacency, exaggeration or panic.
He observed that industrial societies do not have time to generate so many children and added that evidence shows that in Africa too, middle class women also do not have time to generate children endlessly.
Speaking at an international family planning summit in the UK Wednesday, Museveni said that population growth isn’t the problem but, according to him, underdevelopment and lack of social-economic transformation as well as child spacing which would ensure the health of babies and mothers.
Museveni was accompanied to the summit by his wife, First Lady and Minister for Karamoja, Janet Museveni.
He urged African governments and their development partners to sensitise the peasant women about child spacing to ensure spaced and planned child births.
“The middle class women do not need it much because they have no time to spend making babies endlessly. It is the peasants who need to be helped,” Museveni observed.
“Those administering family planning services to the uneducated should explain to them carefully what they entail so that they can seek out these services out of informed choices and not manipulation,” Museveni added.
The London summit was hosted by the Department of International Development (DFID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was intended to mobilise political commitments and resources from world leaders to enable 120 million women and girls in the poorest countries access contraceptives by 2020 as a strategy to reduce maternal and infant deaths.
President Yoweri Museveni has said that social economic transformation will sort out the issue of high population growths in Africa.
Museveni was among the seven keynote panelists who included the leaders of Rwanda and Tanzania; the British Prime Minister David Cameron, Melinda Gates and UNFPA Executive Director Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin.
(L-R) Melinda Gates, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, President Yoweri Museveni and wife Janet, and Stephen Oiben the United Kingdom Under Secrectary of State for International Development during a meeting at Queen Elizabeth 11 conference center in London.
By the end of the summit a total of US$4.6billion had been pledged exceeding the target of US$4.3billion. President Museveni pledged that his government will spend US$25m on family planning over the next five years.
Museveni said that once the socio-economic transformation issue is addressed, the resultant socio- metamorphosis will automatically bring down the population growth rates like it happened in the developed world.
Uganda, he explained, has been registering a 6.5% growth rate annually in spite of the shortage of electricity but that now that there is a little surplus, the country will experience higher growth rates.
Museveni explained that Uganda is focusing on infrastructure for development and education especially through Universal primary and secondary education. He said that this will enable transformation.
He said that Uganda has made progress on Millennium Development Goals of poverty reduction, increase of life expectancy and reduction of infant mortality rates.
He said that the country has established a health infrastructure outlay in 1,600 places and Government will strengthen the National medical Stores to prevent stock outs for family planning supplies. He expressed gratitude to development partners who have helped Uganda on health issues.
British Premier David Cameron noted that empowering women is key to growing economies. He highlighted the need to address corruption, transparency, governance, democracy and noted the key role women contribute to the process.
“If we invest in empowering women in Africa, that growth will help us grow,” he said and announced his government’s commitment of 500million Pound Sterling for family planning to be spread up to 2020.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made committed of an additional US$560m which pushes their contribution to over US$1bn between now and 2020.
British Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell said: “We are listening to the voices of millions of girls and women who are saying that they want the ability to plan the timing and the spacing of their children” “This Summit has the potential to achieve great things for girls and women around the world.