By Mugobera Ronald
KAMPALA, Uganda’s current population is approximately 39,041,200 (Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) 2018) with a population growth rate of 3.3 percent. Over 60 percent of Uganda’s population is aged between 0-20 years approximately 23,494,300 which shows that majority of Uganda’s population are teenagers. This offers a potential resource for Uganda to tap into to realize its growth aspirations for instance vision 2040 among others.
A large population provides the potential labour force needed to spur economic activities in the country and also provides the much needed market for the locally produced goods hence accelerating the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) saying. Countries like China and India rode on large populations to make it to the list of great economies in the world. A young and energetic population is more innovative and has high ability to make use of modern technology needed to boost efficiency within the country. This additionally helps the country in exporting quality skilled labor to other countries which earns foreign exchange for the economy. This is evident from the various huge infrastructure projects like power dams and roads in Uganda and other African economies being taken on by Chinese firms. India equally benefits from its man power as most people from African countries seek quality medication from Indian hospitals.
The case of large young population may be different in Uganda thus putting the country’s opportunities for demographic dividend at stake. This is due to the current state surrounding the young people in Uganda. According UBOS, 4,341,000 children aged 6-17 years in Uganda are engaged in child labor of which 507,200 (11.7 percent) children are involved in hazardous work. This puts the children’s health at risk and involving children in work most likely affects their academic career. Uganda’s children of school going age are engaged in risky work like clandestine gold mines in Karamoja region, Busia district among others.
Uganda’s major driver of population growth is attributed to teenage pregnancy among others. Teenage pregnancy among other disadvantages leads to dropout from schools by the affected victims. This further results into child marriages as three in ten girls in Uganda have their first birth before celebrating their 18th birthday (World Bank, 2017). Poverty among other factors is key in escalating child labor, teenage pregnancies and child marriages in Uganda.
Uganda’s huge young population comes from areas where economic activity is not of the highest level. This means that such populations are less likely to afford quality education and healthcare. These among other factors hinder the quality of human capital that this young population turns out to be in the near future. With this kind of children status that Uganda is faced with, the chances of Uganda harnessing a demographic dividend are minimal since the indigenous labor force may not have the required knowledge and skills to spur efficiency as highlighted prior.
There is need for the country to have safety nets that safeguard children from the claws of child abuse like child labor. Furthermore, potential of the people entering into the workforce should be scaled up by enhancing education and employability of the young population.
The country’s healthcare system should also be furnished with the necessary requirement and a motivated medical human resource to ensure that the health of the young population is in good and sound state.
Mugobera Ronald is an economist with Civil Society Budget Group