Can Tanzania afford 100 million citizens in 2035?


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Let's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in the Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

Tanzania has experienced an exceptionally high population growth – from 11 million in 1963 to over 45 million in 2012. Among the factors that have contributed to this increase –one of the fastest in the world– is the falling mortality rate. Life expectancy in Tanzania has increased over the past two decades from 50 to 58 years. 

In addition, Tanzanian women have continued to have many children (5.4 per woman in 2010), which is higher than Kenya and Rwanda (4.6) as well as other sub-Saharan countries with the exception of Uganda.
Since 1991, this rate has only declined by 13 percent in Tanzania against 26 and 31 percent in Rwanda and Kenya, respectively.  Several other factors have also contributed to the high population growth rate that Tanzania is experiencing:

  • Infant mortality has halved over the last 25 years.
  • Early marriage: the median age at first marriage in 2010 was 18.8 years in Tanzania compared to 20.0 in Kenya and 21.4 in Rwanda. 
  • Early motherhood: 44 percent of Tanzanian women are either pregnant or are mothers by the age of 19. 
  • Insufficient education: Reaching secondary education considerably delays the age at first marriage and girls with secondary education wed at about 23 years in Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda. In 2010, women who had no education had twice as many children as those who had attained secondary education. 
  • The average desired number of children for Tanzanian women remains high at 5.3 per woman.
  • Timid family planning programs; The use of contraceptives has stalled with only 27 percent of women using modern contraceptives in 2010 compared with 39 percent and 26 percent in Kenya and Rwanda respectively in the same year.  

With the current fertility and mortality rates, Tanzania’s population is projected to reach 100 million in 2035 and 200 million by the end of this century. These projections raise a number of questions:

  • Will there be enough food to feed 100 million people in 2035?
  • How can enough jobs be created for the mounting youthful population?
  • Will there be enough resources to provide high-quality education, infrastructure and other basic services for the coming generation?
  • Will economic development and urbanization be sufficient to reduce population growth over time?
  • Should the Government promote family planning programs like Ethiopia and Rwanda have done?
  • How can more men be encouraged to participate in family planning programs?
  • Should targeted education programs be implemented to encourage girls to remain in schools?
  • What should the role of development partners, communities, civil society and religious leaders be?
  • Note: The statistics used here are extracted from the 2010 World Population Prospects and various issues of Demographic and Health Surveys for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. All are publicly available.
Kristoffer Welsien
October 16, 2012

Thanks for all the interesting questions and inputs.

When analyzing the current age structure of the population there is indeed an opportunity for Tanzania to benefit significantly from the demographic dividend. For this to unfold Tanzania would have to complete the demographic transition, which has stalled over the last decade.

The government did launch a successful voluntary family planning campaign, the Green Star Program, in the early 1990s increasing the use of modern contraceptives from 7% in 1991–1992 to 13 percent in 1996, 17 percent in 1999. But as the HIV and AIDS epidemic threatened to put an end to the population growth the Government and donor’s priorities changed and the family planning momentum slumped as the funding crumbled.

Over the last four years we have seen donors picking up the momentum and significant achievement is being made. This effort would, however, benefit from an increased commitment and engagement from various leaders of Tanzania, but this has yet to happen. It is also important to note that the demographic transition in Asia did not happen by itself; it was led by committed governments launching wide, national, voluntary family planning campaigns. Asian countries that did not manage to generate this momentum experienced a very slow transition; the Philippines is a good example of this.

When running the different population scenarios for Tanzania it becomes clear that the population will undoubtedly double again which fuels some of the questions above.

Redeemer Kowu
October 15, 2012

Did Tanzania implement a family planning programme? They were just like or comparable to Ghana. But because Ghana had a family planning programme from 1971, Ghana's population did not grow so rapidly. Now average child per family is getting down to 3 per family and Ghana is just 24 million in 2012. No! the Tanzania case is scary. Education on family planning is needed.

Ed Harris
October 16, 2012

Thank you for this great and very informative blog.

The questions all seem to imply that Tanzania's rapid population growth is unquestionably a "bad" thing, that it poses several risks to Tanzania's growth and development.

Clearly this population growth does pose risks, but are there any conditions under which you see an opportunity? Might we see a demographic dividend, for example, whereby a larger proportion of the population is working and economic growth is given a lift as we saw in Asia three decades ago?

October 16, 2012

Several programs are being undertaken to control population increase in Tanzania. At least one or two secondary schools have been established in every ward to reduce early motherhood to girls; the use of oral contraceptives is being encouraged where even men have started participating in this exercise; together with that the increase of campaign for education in family planning is taking place at a commendably speed.
It is predicted that the population increase is likely to dwindle gradually if the measures taken will continue to be implemented seriously.

Paul Sack
October 21, 2012

Tanzania has been a success story in economic development, with GDP having risen at a rate of 5% to 7% for several decades. Because of population growth, however, the standard of living of most Tanzanians has hardly risen. All the extra resources made available by economic growth go into building and running new basic facilities for the expanding population--new schools, new facilities for training teachers, new health clinics new facilities for training health workers, and so forth. Because the population has grown from 14 million in 1966 (when I was living in Dar) to over 40 million today, economic development per capita is running in place and making little progress.