Experts weigh in on increasing local, global population

Traders conduct business in downtown Kampala before the Covid-19 lockdowns. PHOTO/ALEX ESAGALA

What you need to know:

  • According to the World Bank update for 2022, poverty in Uganda increased from “27.5 to 32.7 percent after the first lockdown in 2020” due to reduced remittances, limited credit, and job losses. 

The government should prepare to spend more on infrastructure and social service delivery, and bolster sustainable production of food to stand the pressure associated with the fast population increase, Ugandan experts have said. 

However, they also said the population growth means there will be more market for goods and services, and the possibility of cheap labour for employers. 

The experts were commenting on a projection by the United Nations that the global and Ugandan populations will hit 8 billion and 48 million this year, respectively.  

Dr Madina Guloba, a senior research fellow at Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), in an interview with Daily Monitor, while questioning the accuracy of the projection, said there will be more negative effects of population growth, especially in the short run. 

“With any population increase, comes pressure on social services in terms of delivery.

That pressure will come on the government to take care of this population. The major issue is how we are prepared for it,” she said. 

Dr Dan Kajungu, the executive director of the Makerere University Centre for Health and Population Research (MUCHAP), said the government is not prepared to handle the fast increase in population.  

“The rate at which the population is growing in Uganda is higher than the improvement in social services,” he said.

According to Dr Guloba, any viable population that is not productive becomes a burden. 
“The burden will be on the few who are working and it can have an impact on the meagre resources, especially on the household level.  That means the dependency ratio is going to increase and this has an impact on poverty rates,” she said.

According to the World Bank update for 2022, poverty in Uganda increased from “27.5 to 32.7 percent after the first lockdown in 2020” due to reduced remittances, limited credit, and job losses. 

“Beyond this pressure on social services, there is also multi-dimensional poverty –that means stress on water, forests and education system. What I look at in the growing population is that multi-dimensionality might increase in terms of access to critical resources,” Dr Guloba said. 

“There is also the risk of increased crime rates because we don’t have viable ways for engaging the segment of the population. The young population is increasing and that means there is a risk of the vicious circle of teenage pregnancies,” she added. 

Hunger crisis

Dr Kajungu on the other hand said the increase in population and reducing soil fertility will increase hunger, forcing more people into urban areas. He said this will have far-reaching consequences on the health and productivity of the population. 

“People, majorly those in urban areas are shifting away from [health] foods that they used to eat and they are now eating things such as fried chips, drinking soda and alcohol and that puts them at risk of developing non-communicable diseases [such as hypertension and cancer],” he said.

“Then there is pressure on the land which grows these foods. The harvest is low and so people have to travel to buy foods in urban areas that may not be healthy compared to what they used to grow and eat,” he added. 

The decline in soil fertility and erratic climate that is resulting from degradation of the environment, partly as a result of increasing population is already causing a shortage of food in Uganda with cases of deaths in Karamoja and Lango sub-regions as a result of chronic hunger. 

Dr Guloba said cheap labour will not be realised in the short run. 

“In the short run, we are going to see the increase in dependency ratio and the “cheap” labour will be realised later on. But this labour is not even cheap,” she said. 

“With time, as this generation grows and they are too many, there will be few jobs and so people will be working few hours so that more people are engaged. This will cause a redistribution of time [which indirectly affects the earnings of an individual]. You will be highly skilled, but there will be no job to keep you constantly engaged,” she added.