Growing Pains: Uganda Population Bomb Ticking

October 8, 2012 • Daily Email Recap

By Robert Madoi

October 4, 2012

Uganda enters its next 50 years of self-rule with its reputation as a demographic renegade well and truly intact, thanks to a mindboggling fertility rate (the average number of children a woman can have in her lifetime), which the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) put at 6.2 in 2011.

One of the highest in the world, Uganda’s fertility rate is the stand-out catalyst to the Malthusian disaster on which the country awkwardly squats. The narrative would have been different, demographers contend, had President Museveni taken a lead role in advocating smaller families.

Instead, between 1995 and 2006, when fertility rates in notoriously childbirth-happy sub-Saharan Africa were on a down slope, Uganda’s fecundity was stalling at 6.7 in the face of Museveni’s message that vociferously hailed a large population.

Currently, the average fertility rate for sub-Saharan African countries stands at 4.64 – a high statistic by any measure, but one which would have been a bit lower were it not for the shenanigans of entities like Uganda. Not that there haven’t been any positive demographic strides in Uganda.

Between 2006 and 2011, the country was rattled out of its stall with the fertility rate falling from 6.7 to 6.2. The UDHS posits that this fall was largely because of a paradigm shift in the apprehension of all things demographic by urbanites whose fertility fell steeply from 5.0 in 1995 to 3.8 in 2011.

Whether the predisposition of Ugandan urbanites to smaller families (remember 3.8 is still some way off the 2.1 replacement rate of fertility) will haul Uganda out of a Malthusian abyss and place it on a right path is anyone’s guess.

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