Special Features
For Uganda’s population, it’s more youth, more problems
Publish Date: Feb 26, 2013
For Uganda’s population, it’s more youth, more problems
Experts say Uganda’s young population could be beneficial if more people join the productive workforce
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The State of Uganda’s Population Report was released last week.

According to the  findings, Uganda has the world’s youngest population, with over 78% below 30 years. Such a revelation also comes with concerns, writes Taddeo Bwambale.

A walk through bustling downtown Kampala tells the allure of a flourishing business in the city. It is barely 8:15am, but a large room on the second floor of Mukwano Arcade, near the Old Taxi Park, is packed to capacity. The people are placing their bets on various sports games, among them football and virtual racing. 

Giant TV screens relaying matches,  blaring music, a fast food joint in the corner and computers spread across the room give a sense of comfort to clients, many of them young men. At the counter, 19-year-old Brian Guma, an S.6 vacist, places his bet on three matches, with sh5,000. If luck smiles on him, he will earn sh470,000 by close of day. Should any of his selected teams lose, he will walk to Kalerwe.

Then, there is George William Bakka, a 21-year-old proprietor of Angels Finance Cooperation, a firm in the city. Having leaped over humble beginnings, Bakka is now a budding young entrepreneur.

Young population

The stories of Guma and Bakka present the mixed fortunes that present with an increasingly younger population age group struggling to survive in the city.

According to the latest State of Uganda Population Report 2012 released in December, Uganda has the youngest population in the world, with over 78% below the age of 30 years. Experts warn that such a big young population will exert more pressure on the economy, unless it is transformed into a productive work force.

The fears

The report reveals that more than 52% of Ugandans are below 15 years. According to the report, 39.3% of Ugandans are between 19 and 59 years, while the ageing population, 60+ years, comprise 4.6%, a general decline from 5.8% in 2002. The report highlights the continuous growth in the population of people  below 18 years, from 51.4% in 1969, to 53.8% in 1991 and 56.1% in 2012.

Dr. John Ssekamate, a population expert at the the National Planning Authority, explains that Uganda’s economy cannot sustain the current structure. “Such a situation creates a high dependence  burden and the population is locked in a vicious cycle of poverty. The youthful population means more pressure on the employed to support those who are inactive,” he explains.

The UN defines the youth as a section of the population between 15-24 years, while the commonwealth considers those between 15 and 29 years. The National Youth Policy considers those aged 12 to 30 years. This age range is a period of great emotional, physical and psychological changes that require societal support for a safe passage from adolescence to adulthood. There are 6.5 million Ugandans aged between 18 and 30 years, constituting 21.3% of the population. This age group is projected to grow to 7.7million by 2015.

Dr. Ibrahim Kasirye, a senior research Research Centre, notes that the population is bound to strain resources if the high birth rates are not controlled. “The major implication of Uganda’s young population is an increasing dependency burden at the household level, with a related increase in demand for social services (education and health), which are not keeping pace with the growth.

For instance, classrooms in public primary schools  remain congested due to growth in school populations,” he states. He observes that the growth in the population is not driven by the desire for more children (which has declined in the past 15 years), but by the high rate of unwanted births.

Recommendations

Experts highlight the need for a longterm  plan, focusing on the role of the family, the Government, private sector and civil society in nurturing young people to become productive. Currently, at least 83% of young people have no formal employment, partly due to slow economic growth, the small labour market, high population growth rate, the rigid education system, rural-urban migration and limited access to capital.

Experts warn that the frustration of the youth can contribute to militancy, impatience and risk-taking, since they can be easily exploited by people with sinister motives.

“The Government needs to find solutions for the youthful majority of growing larger, poorer, more discontent and occasionally, more militant,” the report further recommends. It also identifies a high risk of HIV/ AIDS among the young people, given the findings of the 2011 Uganda Demographic Health Survey. It shows that over 62% of young women and 48% of young men have had their first sexual encounter by the age of 18. Another threat to youth productivity is their susceptibility to alcohol and drug abuse, as well as social-economic vulnerabilities such as ignorance, poverty and unemployment.

The growth in primary, secondary and university enrolment is identified as a positive step, but Ssekamate highlights the need to curb the dropout rate, especially for girls. The construction of more health units is also identifi ed as a key step, but the presence of only 2,000 doctors with a ratio of one doctor to 12,500 patients, is way below acceptable standards. “The implication of this structure is that the Government should plan for the productive population by investing more in schools, hospitals, housing, transport and energy, the report states. Ssekamate observes that Uganda’s young population could yield what he called a ‘demographic bonus’ as more people join the productive workforce.

Vision 2040

One of the things we have proposed in Vision 2040 is to drastically reduce fertility rates by half so that more people move into the productive sector. The economy will benefi t from this through taxes and the production of goods and services,” he explains. Ssekamate observes that scaling up family planning services would reduce fertility levels and increase the ratio of employed adults to young dependents.

According to the report, nearly two-thirds of households that slipped into poverty between 2005 and 2010 registered signifi cant  increase in family size. The fertility rate for Ugandan women has been declining, from 6.9 children in 1995 to 6.7 in 2006 Findings of the report and 6.2 in 2011. If this fertility transition improves further, Uganda may benefit from the demographic dividend.

Compared to her neighbours, Ssekamate notes that although Kenya has lower fertility rates, it is yet to benefit from the  demographic dividend, since the decline is gradual.

The report emphasises the need for the Government to support initiatives intended to absorb and employ the extra workforce, through skilling and tooling. The Government needs to set up an economic environment that is ready to keep the demographic dividend to ensure that the youthful population can create wealth, buy goods and pay taxes.

The report cites several opportunities intended to improve youth productivity, among them the allocation of sh44b for the youth to start business, in the 2011/2012 budget. Youth entrepreneurship training programmes and the skilling Uganda programme expected to start next year, offer a chance to turn millions of otherwise ‘idle’ youth into productive citizens.

Findings of the report

The State of Uganda Population Report 2012 reveals that Uganda’s population grew by at least 1.7 million people in the year 2012, reaching 34.1 million. At a growth rate of 3.2 % per year, the country’s population will reach 54 million in 2025, and 130 million by 2050, according to the State of Uganda Population Report 2012 released last Friday.

The report, Uganda at 50 years, Population and Service Delivery: Challenges, Opportunities and Prospects was compiled by the Population Secretariat. It puts the female population at 17.4 million, higher than that of males at 16.7 million. It shows a reduction in infant mortality rate at 54 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 76 in 2006.

However, the maternal mortality rates did not improve, as shown by 438 deaths per l00,000 live births in 2012, compared to 435 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006. The report, which is based on projections made by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), further shows that under-five mortality  rate reduced to 90 per 1,000 live births, up from 130 per 1,000 births in 2006.

According to the report, 78% of Ugandans are below the age of 30 years and 52% below 15 years, making Uganda the youngest nation in the world. It further shows that there are 6.5million Ugandans in the age group 18-30 years, constituting 21.3% of the population. This age group is projected to grow to 7.7million young people in 2015.

The report shows a signifi cant reduction in the fertility rate among women of child-bearing age, from 6.7 children in 2006 to 6.2 in 2012. However, the national unmet need for family planning services is still high at 34%, although this is higher among sexually-active unmarried women, with up to 52%.

The report urges the Government to involve youth in development programmes to reduce the growing dependency syndrome. The State of the World Population, 2012, released alongside the national report, shows that the world population grew to 7.06 billion people in 2012, up from 7 billion. It also projects that the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050. The report notes a general decline in birth rates worldwide, but highlights gaps in the delivery of family planning services, especially among the young people.

The report shows that about 222 million women globally lack access to reliable family planning services, information and supplies,  putting them at risk of unintended pregnancies. It portrays high levels of unintended pregnancy in developed countries, especially among adolescents, the poor and ethnic minorities.

The report notes a high unmet need for family planning, despite international agreements and human rights treaties that promote individuals’ rights to make their own decisions about when and how often to have children Of the 80 million unintended pregnancies that were projected to occur in 2012, an estimated 40 million were expected to end in abortion.

Researchers argue that addressing the unmet need for family planning worldwide would avert 54 million unintended pregnancies and result in 26 million fewer abortions. The global report calls on countries to increase financial support and political commitment to available and promote family planning services as a right, and integrate voluntary family planning into broader economic and social development. It also calls for elimination of economic, social, logistical and fi nancial obstacles to voluntary family planning, besides engaging men and boys in family planning.

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