As Uganda prepares to join the rest of the world to mark World Population Day on July 11, experts have called for renewed commitment at all leadership levels to reduce the current population growth rate.
With population growing at 3% per annum, and the fertility rate at 5.4 children per woman, experts have warned that without renewed commitment, prospects of harnessing the demographic dividends in Uganda are still remote.
The 2012 State of Uganda Population report showed that the country had the youngest population in the world, with 78% of the people below the age of 30 years and 52% under 15 years.
The experts say the country still has one of the youngest populations in the world, with about one million babies born each year. For instance, the population is estimated to be grown to over 37 million today, from 34.6 million in 2014.
The chairman of National Planning Authority (NPA), Kisamba Mugerwa, says with more girls dropping out of school and giving birth before clocking 18 years, the number of dependents could increase and the country may fail to harness the demographic dividends from the youth bulge given the country’s high employment levels.
The youth bulge, a phenomenon involving a growing number of children and young adults becomes a demographic dividend if they (young people) can find gainful employment leading to reduction in the dependence ratio. But it becomes a demographic bomb if the growing youthful population cannot find employment.
“We have to invest more in education and ensure that we keep girls in school. If we do not do that, it means more children will give birth and we may fail to take advantage of the youth bulge,” he stated.
Alain Sibenaler, the United Nations Population Fund country representative, says they have agreed with Government to launch a new campaign dubbed Let Girls Be Girls to protect (girls) from gender based injustices and keep them in school.
“This will ensure that more girls remain in school and able to make meaningful decisions on when they want to give birth and to how many babies,” he added, “We also plan to increase investment in family planning services,”.