Advancing family planning and reproductive health can positively influence and advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
Tanzania’s Vision 2025 stipulates the desire to become a semi-industrialized, middle income country with a rapidly growing economy. The vision details a number of qualities to be attained namely: high quality livelihood; peace, stability and unity; good governance; a well-educated and learning society; and a competitive economy capable of producing sustainable growth and shared benefits. To attain this vision and its attributes a candid reflection on potential challenges is inevitable. One of the main challenges Tanzania is facing is a rapid growing population that fuels dependency and compromises quality of social services, as the productive group remains small relative to the dependent group. This relationship impacts on Tanzanians because earnings made from productivity work end up supporting the huge dependent group. Consequently, little or no savings are left at household level for investing into development ventures including improving healthcare, nutrition, education, and upkeep.
Women who begin childbearing early, have too frequent pregnancies and births, have too many children to take care of, and continue childbearing at older ages have therefore minimum chances to contribute to the economy as an empowered group. In most cases, they drop out of school early, unable to effectively engage in production and self-advancement activities. Investing immensely and sustainably in family planning towards reducing fertility would facilitate attainment of Tanzania’s sustainable development priorities.
Family planning: A path to sustainable development?
By investing in family planning families will be able to decide on the number and timing of pregnancies so they can bear children that they can afford to support with quality social services and building a strong foundation for them for a better future quality workforce. Conversely, a well-planned and prepared population has better chances for quality life, away from poverty and associated problems such as crime, violence, and civil strife as people scramble for the little resources available. A well managed fertility paves the way to peace, unity, stability and sustainable development resulting from its well-educated population.
Benefits of successful family planning in advancing sustainable development
Tanzania became an independent sovereign state in 1961, after many years of colonial servitude to the Arabs, Portuguese, Germans, and British. At the time of independence, the nation had a population of less than ten million people. Today the population is more than five times that of 1961, as seen below.
Tanzania’s population trend is further examined by looking at the pace at which patterns in which it is increasing between censuses, in comparison to the year in which the trend is pegged, annual growth in terms of percentage and the number of years in which it is doubling.
These patterns of growth have kept Tanzania in a condition in which poverty is prevailing as dependence remains persistent. Compared to other countries such as the East Asian Tigers (Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, and Singapore), Tanzania’s population trends have greatly contributed to its slow and stagnant growth. In the 1960 Tanzania and the East Asian Tigers had total fertility rates of around 6 and 7 children per woman in the reproductive age. By the 1990s the Tigers had reduced that number to 2 or below while Tanzania remained at around 6. Those countries invested heavily in slowing fertility to the extent of having a majority of their populations in the productive age group by the 1990s.
It is therefore, time for Tanzania to choose the path of sustainable growth by ensuring that family planning takes a position of undisputed priority.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
All Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have much to do with population growth. A rapidly growing population defeats intentions to eradicate poverty and hunger; improve health and wellbeing and the quality of education; and ensure gender equality and provision of clean water and sanitation services for all. Rapid population growth is the main threat to the environment as demands for energy increase uncontrollably; it becomes difficult to keep up with an exponentially growing workforce to provide job opportunities for them as investments in industrialization, innovation, and infrastructure face challenges of low or lack of capital due to low productivity and meagre savings; resulting into persistent inequalities and poorly organized and managed cities and communities. As a key partner and implementer of SDGs, Tanzania will do well to prioritize family planning so as to slow fertility and spur sustainable growth in all sectors. Such actions will enable the country to position itself better for attaining SDGs.