In 2015 John Magufuli was elected President of Tanzania. Known as the bulldozer he is an unusual character because he is totally non-corrupt and is known to get things done regardless of obstacles. He is both unique and unconventional in his approach to obstructions because he chases corruption and unnecessary spending with real zeal. For instance, the central government bank reported that in 2017 the implementation of his policy which banned unnecessary foreign travel for public servants showed that the government had saved $430m (£330m) in just one year. He also once demonstrated his diligence through his attention to public finances when he made a surprise a visit to the finance ministry to check on how many people had actually turned up to work.
However, this is where this commendation ends. There are other sides to his character which are less commendable and are blazingly dangerous for the future of Tanzania.
President Magufuli is known for his opposition to family planning and nuclear sized families. In one of his meetings he is reported to have said to Tanzania’s women “set your ovaries free! and bear more children as a way to help boost the economy into a regional powerhouse. When you have a big population, you build the economy. That’s why China’s economy is so huge,” He then went onto site India and Nigeria as other examples of countries that have gained from a demographic dividend.
How wrong can he be? He had only to have sought advice from the governments of India and China to have found out that both these countries are struggling with the problems of overpopulation before coming out with this erroneous advice.
Data from the U.N. population fund UNFPA shows Tanzania’s population is growing by about 2.7 percent a year while most public hospitals and schools are overcrowded and many young people lack jobs. With a fertility rate of 4.7 (i.e. average number of children is between 4 to 5 per women) and over half the population live below the poverty line, President Magufuli’s recommendation is probably the worst advice that he can give to his people. If one takes a look at the changes in population Tanzania over time one soon realises why one can doubt President Magufuli’s statement. Tanzania had a population of 8 million in 1950. Currently is just under 60 million and is projected to double again in the next twenty years and by 2050 is projected to be 130 million. That is a 16-fold increase in 100 years. No country can cope with this sort of change of population without straining its infrastructure. Increasing fertility rate would only worsen the inequality and poverty.
President Magufuli is a devout catholic with 5 children and with his pro-natalist stance on population size has probably let his religious zeal get the better of him.
Population crisis believes that his blindness to the dangers of global population expansion, let alone the Tanzania population explosion will not help advance the purposeful development of his country. His pro-natalist policy will do exactly the opposite.