The population census results have just been released by Uganda Bureau of Statistics.
Uganda’s current population stands at 34.9 million people, growing at three per cent per year. The empirical interpretation of this growth rate is that if you divided the 34.9 million people into groups of 1,000 people, each group will provide an additional 30 people every year. This is the third highest rate of population growth in the world after Niger and Yemen.
There are two major concerns that need to be understood:
. Is high population growth bad or good?
.If it is bad, how can one control such high population?
There are people we call Malthusianists and they contend that the high population growth is bad. They argue that if population is allowed to grow without control, it will outstrip the capacity for the country to contain that population in terms of food, housing and other social services .
They, therefore, aise that countries such as Uganda should consider a negative population policy aimed at controlling child birth. Currently, our child birth rate stands at 50 per 1,000 per annum, which means every 1,000 people in Uganda have additional 50 children every 365 days.
This argument has been discounted by people who think population growth is good, that it provides market for goods and services.
Ugandans who hold this view contend that for example, we have established the East African Community and that this provides a lucrative market for goods and services. It is, therefore, implied that population growth will be good as it will stimulate production of goods and services in the EAC.
This argument for high population growth as a market and a production stimulant must be understood within the clear understanding of the concept ‘market’.
A market is defined in the most elementary English language as a place where people’s needs are satisfied through a medium of exchange. This medium of exchange is what is referred to as money.
You cannot go to a restaurant and smile to be given what you need (food). You must have money to buy the food you need. This is what we call “effective demand”.
Therefore, it is not enough to set up such a restaurant in a place simply because you see people there.
The people must not only be available but they should be willing and also able to pay for the food that you will be serving .This is why it is critical that any country must examine the quality of its population and subsequently plan to invest in its people so as to improve effective demand.
All countries that have recently transformed their economies have not invested in heavy industries of iron and steel like it was during the industrial revolution in Europe, but they have invested heavily in human capital development, focusing in skill formation, health, business entrepreneurship and innovation aimed at enhancing competitive aantage.
The merit of focusing on human capital development is that the human resource is the most pertinent of all available capitals – physical, social, financial and human capitals.
Human resources constitute the pivot that controls all the thinking, the doing and attitude to continue despite challenges.
It is no wonder that countries that have invested in their population have not only achieved rapid economic growth and transformation but have benefited from demographic window of opportunity (benefiting from their high skilled human resources through remittances from exported labour) as well as demographic divided (high skills have empowered the people to increase their purchasing power), hence stimulating production and economic growth.
Prof Nuwagaba is a consultant on growth and economic transformation. email@example.com
SOURCE: Daily Monitor