The results of last month’s 2022 National Population and Housing Census have yet to be released, but it has been common knowledge for many years that Tanzania’s population is among the fastest growing in the world.
While this may sound alarming, it all comes down to the country’s ability to feed, house, clothe and provide other necessities to the extra mouths.
However, meeting the needs of the current population of around 60 million is already a headache for planners.
Reports that the population could surpass 80 million by 2050 are undoubtedly a source of national concern, and questions have rightly been raised about the country’s ability to keep pace with rapid population growth in a context of food security issues.
But we believe that a country like ours, which has vast tracts of arable land, can do better and need not be panicked.
If well exploited, the many mineral and other resources can support more people. In fact, a huge population could be useful as a market for goods and services.
In agriculture, the enormous potential is not fully exploited. We are only too aware of post-harvest losses due to lack of storage and other shortcomings.
Also, many of our farmers still use rudimentary village peasant methods.
While agricultural surpluses rot in some areas, others are ravaged by hunger and starvation. Instead of panicking about population growth now, we need to revolutionize and revitalize agriculture to boost productivity.
While we worry about rapid population growth, in wealthy societies the opposite is happening, and they have been forced to import labour.
The experience in these developed countries is that when people become more prosperous, they tend to have smaller families.
Therefore, increased efforts to develop every part of Tanzania is the best way to banish fears of population explosion that have persisted for many years now.
HARNESSING THE POTENTIAL OF YOUNG PEOPLE
Although young people make up over 60% of East Africa’s population, the majority are unemployed. They also feel excluded from the mainstream in decision-making in their country.
The truth is that the marginalization of a significant segment of society is a ticking time bomb which, if not defused, could have devastating consequences.
Young people in the region are increasingly aware of their rights through social media. If East Africa is to avert disaster, more must be done for its young people, sooner rather than later.
We must no longer dismiss them as ignorant and unprepared for leadership and decision-making. They have a huge stake in the direction their countries will take and should be at the forefront to lead them.
Leaders should remember that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop and should keep young people busy with programs that make a difference in their lives.