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Tanzania warned over high birth rate

Tanzania has been cautioned about its rising fertility rate which at best is keeping wealth per capita sluggish according to the World Bank.

While launching the 20th edition of Africa Pulse in Dar es Salaam recently, World Bank’s Lead Economist Elizabeth Ann Talbert said that although Tanzania’s poverty rate is coming down, the number of poor people is increasing.

“A high population growth can make it harder for many countries to increase wealth per capita,” she said.

The country’s fertility rate is currently estimated at 4.9 births per woman, a drop from five births per woman in 2016, but is still among the fastest-growing rates behind Ethiopia’s 4.4, Malawi’s 5.05, Nigeria’s 5.4, Niger’s 6.62, and Burundi’s 6.04 births per woman.

In the section of the report titled the 12th Tanzania Economic Update co-authored by Ms Talbert, the World Bank notes that although Tanzania’s wealth increased by 45 per cent in two decades, the high population growth kept wealth per capita stagnant.

“One of the factors limiting Tanzania’s ability to increase wealth per capita and thus raise standards of living is persistently high fertility and population growth.

High population growth makes it harder to raise per capita wealth,” she added.

Latest official data shows the proportion of the country’s population who are living below the poverty line dropped to 26.4 per cent in 2018 from 28.2 per cent the previous year.

But, economists say a high population growth rate is only a threat to the country’s development if a large number of people are a liability rather than an asset to the country.

“People are the most important asset for a country and Tanzania’s population has more young people who can contribute to its development,” said Haji Semboja, a researcher and senior economics lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam.

The World Bank also recommends that, “Tanzania should now move much more deliberately to direct investments to high-impact programmes for both the demand and supply sides, increase investments and target resources to priority regions in order to greatly improve the standards of all Tanzanians.”

More than 50 per cent of Africa’s population lives in countries where women on average still have five or more children, according to the World Bank, with Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo together with Tanzania and Madagascar being home to 50 per cent of Africa’s poor.

“A large population is only a problem if the country has failed to mobilise its resources and has inadequate social services. Then there will be a problem in achieving meaningful development,” said Prof Semboja.

Tanzania’s GDP grew at 5.2 per cent annually in 2018, while Ethiopia’s hit 6.81 per cent; Malawi 3.5 per cent; Nigeria 1.93 and Burundi’s at 1.6 per cent.

Africa in general is the fastest growing continent with a fertility rate of 4.8 births per woman.

By The Eastafrica 

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