An unchecked population growth is a disaster waiting to happen

The recent conclusion by the Organised Private Sector (OPS) that inability to check population growth alongside the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) may be fuelling key concerns that border on the economic and social wellbeing of citizens, came as no surprise. Nigeria, the seventh most populous country in the world, has a fertility rate that far outstrips its economic growth and potential. With a nominal GDP growth of 6.99% at the end of the fourth quarter of 2017 and an estimated population figure of 195.88 million, the implication is that many of our citizens are daily falling into the poverty trap.

The challenge of an uncontrolled demographic bulge is compounded by the urban drift. With the present GDP growth rate driven by growth in crop production among others, President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Babatunde Ruwase sees a problem. “People are no longer in the rural areas and there are jobs in the rural areas. Everybody wants to move into the urban areas. Getting agricultural produce from the hinterland and to the market is very difficult; and by the time they get there, the produce would be costly to the extent that the ordinary man cannot afford them and all these lead to lots of wastages. These are some of the issues we must look at holistically.”

For several years, experts have been warning of the dire consequences of this uncontrolled population growth. The prognosis is that there may come a time when it would be difficult for us to feed the ever increasing number of people, hence the need to avoid the type of crisis recently witnessed in some African countries. While we understand that there are those who would, especially for religious reasons, not want to hear any argument about population control, the authorities should be concerned that the current population growth is not matched by commensurate development in the socio-economic sector for the citizenry and this can only breed chaos.

It is indeed instructive that three years ago, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) urged member states to sensitise communities on the need to reduce the number of children a family can cater for in order to enhance economic development and reduce migration. “Our sub-region is under pressure, migration is increasing and the same goes for terrorism. We need to change this situation and for us to change, we need to create conditions for the youths to stay home. We need to take a step and sensitise people on the need to have a good control of our families. We must sensitise women in our sub-region to make sure that there is a limited number of children that can be taken care of,” said ECOWAS.

We agree with ECOWAS that the demographic growth in the sub-region is not beneficial to economic development essentially because a bulging population that is not backed by development is a disaster waiting to happen. Besides, while the number of poor people continues to decline in other regions of the world, Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries currently account for half of the global poor, basically as a result of births that are not planned for. It is therefore appropriate to warn of the danger ahead.

To the extent that a sustainable society is the one with moderate population growth that enables its members to achieve a high quality of life in ways that are ecologically sustainable, policymakers must begin to focus their attention on how to address the challenge of population explosion in our country.