KAMPALA, Nov. 22–About 13.1 million Ugandans are aged 10-24, according to a new United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report.
The report shows that Uganda’s population at 38.8 million, contradicting the national census results which put the figure at 34.9 million.
Sources said the UNFPA calculates its figure basing on estimates and data generated from the various UN organs.
The report shows that Tanzania’s population stands at 50.8m, Kenya 45.5m and Rwanda at 12.1 million.
Titled Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future, the report which was released globally on 18th November) provides the latest trends and statistics on adolescent and youth populations worldwide, how they are key to economic and social progress and what must be done to realize their full potential.
It also points out that the fertility rate of Ugandan women is stagnating at 5.9 children per woman for the last four years between 2010 and 2015. This is above the sub-Saharan average of 4.8 children per woman.
However, the good news is that the life expectancy of Ugandan men and women has gone up to 58 and 60 years respectively. This is up from 54 and 55 years in 2011.
Experts note that that the youth population was growing fast and call for the need to empower them. Globally, the report says there are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24. About 600 million of these are adolescent girls.
“Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress. How we meet the needs and aspirations of young people will define our common future,” says the UNFPA executive director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, in his forward address.
He says the skills and knowledge young people acquire must be relevant to the current economy and enable them to become innovators, thinkers and problem-solvers.
“Investments in health, including sexual and reproductive health, are also central. When young people can make a healthy transition from adolescence into adulthood, options expand for the future. Yet today, more than 2 million 10 to 19-year-olds are living with HIV: about one in seven of all new HIV infections occur during adolescence. Strategic investments can allow young people to claim their rights—to education, health, development, and to live free from violence and discrimination,” adds Osotimehin.
According to the report, in about 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, half the population is under 18. In Chad, Niger and Uganda, half the population is under 16. This is mainly attributed to the fertility rates and low contraceptive use.
In Uganda, only 27% of women aged 15-49 are using modern methods of contraception.
“If investments are prioritized so that all individuals in developing countries gain the power and the means to decide freely and responsibly whether, when or how often to have children—to exercise their reproductive rights—fertility rates will decline,” the report states.
Since young people will live longer into the future than their parents and other elders, UNFPA stresses that they are more likely to face the impacts of accelerating climate change and other environmental shifts, with accompanying risks to human well-being.
“The need for social resilience is likely to grow, and today’s young will need in their own adulthood to be the main agents of tomorrow’s resilience. Their resilience depends in part on whether they are healthy and educated, whether they have options and opportunities in life, and whether they are fully engaged citizens whose rights are upheld.”
Commenting on the findings of the report, Johnson Akampa , a peer trainer and Programs Coordinator of Youth Advocacy Foundation Uganda says a young population will be either be a blessing or spell doom depending on how it is handled.
“The majority of young people have energies to change the world, but there is unemployment for both the educated and uneducated. The opposition is taking advantage of the situation and using the youth in demonstrations. Some are using them to stage manage them, source for funding and then connive to take the money and disappear. Yet the real people who need this money are not getting it. We need an independent youth ministry to ensure the young people are engaged,” says Akampa.
In his estimation, he does not think that controlling the fertility rate is the answer.
“Controlling the population is not the answer. China has the highest populations, but they are now a threat to the world economy. When you talk about agriculture, get the youth engaged, because they might not know how to.”