By Richard Ssempala
Uganda is one of the countries with the fastest population growth in the world. Estimates show that the population has grown to about 40 million in 2017 from just 5.1 million in 1950.
However, out of this population, children below the age of 15 account for about 48 percent, adults between 15 and 65 years of age account for 49 percent, and about 3 percent are more than 65 years old. Moreover, the largest population resides in rural areas and their primary source of income is agriculture which is burdened by low productivity and low budget allocations.
It should be our concern whether the growing population is of importance to our economy. From the theoretical analyses, some authors clearly argue that high population growth creates pressures on limited natural resources, reduces private and public capital formation, and diverts additions to capital resources to maintaining rather than increasing the stock of capital per worker. This has already manifested its self in Uganda especially in many cases where citizens have encroached on reserved areas like forests and swamps, among others.
From a different perspective, population growth is good for the economy to the extent that people are empowered economically enough to create demand for the produced commodities. Also high populations increase economies of scale and allow for specialization at work.
In the Ugandan case the highest proportion of her population comprises of young people who are dependents. Most of these youths do not have adequate education and those who are fortunate to have an education lack appropriate employable skills. This clearly increases the burden on a few working population and on the scarce available resources.
With this state of affairs, it is important that authorities incorporate appropriate policies in Uganda’s development agenda to unlock the population dividend. This can be done by increasing budgetary expenditures in sectors with high multiplier effects, including but not limited to: agriculture; tourism; and science, technology and innovation which might absorb the seemingly growing and young population.
Richard Ssempala is a Research Associate with Uganda Debt Network