What census data means for Tanzania's economy

Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan during the release of the 2022 Population and Housing Census in Dodoma on October 31, 2022

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s population growth rate of 3.2 percent offers both opportunities and challenges for the country’s development endeavours, analysts said yesterday, shortly after President Samia Suluhu Hassan revealed that the population had risen to 61, 741, 120 people (61.74 million) this year.

Depending on the type of development model a country wants to pursue, a rapid population growth rate could be good or bad for the economy and this formed the basis for analysts who aired their different views to The Citizen yesterday.

The first batch of economists say a rapid population growth makes it more difficult for low-income and lower-middle-income countries like Tanzania to afford the increase in public expenditures on a per capita basis.

This, they say, makes it increasingly difficult to eradicate poverty, end hunger and malnutrition, and ensure universal access to health care, education, water and other essential services.

On the contrary, the other school of economists says a large population translates into more workers and more consumers who make a good market for locally-produced products for the general good of the economy.

For the latter, China and India which now stand on the second and fifth positions respectively with the largest economies in the world, are vivid example.

Revealing the findings of the Population and Housing Census, 2022 in Dodoma yesterday, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said though the data may not seem to be a problem for a huge country like Tanzania, the same poses a challenge in the delivery of social services.

“It is possible that the population could not look like a problem to a big country like ours but it is also a big burden to the economy. We now need concrete plans on how to serve these 61 million Tanzanians,” President Hassan said.

She said it is estimated that come 2025, Tanzania will be home to 67.96 million people and that by 2050, there will be 151.252 million individuals in the country.

Analysts say with the economy growing at 4.7 percent per year, the annual population growth rate of an average of 3.2 percent would deter the country from making meaningful gains in per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

But on the other hand, it would be a factor for enhanced agricultural and industrial production due to the availability of enough manpower.

An Agricultural Trade Economist from the University of Dodoma (UDOM), Dr Lutengano Mwinuka said the population growth provides an opportunity by providing a bigger pool of human capital.

It is through the skills set, creativity, innovation and education of the human capital that the economy derives its growth.

“For instance, in agriculture we have a lot of unutilised land across the country. From the census data we can identify the size of the working age group and skills composition and thus we can appropriately develop economic development strategies,” he said.

Dr Mwinuka said from the census, educational attributes such as school attendance, educational attainment, and literacy will provide an opportunity also to the government to plan proper skills needed to the demography and how those skills can translate to development.

“By filling the gaps skills gap, we will increase employability and expand the number of taxpayers in the country,” said Dr Mwinuka.

Growing cities

Dar es Salaam remains the city with the highest population in Tanzania. With 5,383,728 people, its inhabitants account for 8.7 percent of Tanzania’s population.

Mwanza, which is also the second largest city and the second largest contributor to the GDP after Dar es Salaam, has 3,699, 872 individuals, accounting for six percent of the total population.

This rapid urban population growth has been caused by factors such as prospects for more jobs, access to medical treatment and general attractions of urban life.

With 893,169 people, Zanzibar’s Mjini Magharibi is the populous city urban area in the Isles, accounting for 47.3 percent of the archipelago’s total population of 1,889,763 people.

While bursting cities can facilitate and boost the financial and economic growth by increasing demand, the same poses pressure on social services like water, health and education among others, said an economist Dr Wilhelm Ngasamiaku from the University of Dar es Salaam.

Though the actual census results reports has yet to be released to the public, Dr Ngasamiaku said it will be important for the economic strategies of the country to also focus on the age structure of the population.

“In previous census for example, we have seen that people below 15 years and children account for the majority of the population. This means as a country, you must invest more on social services as demand for health and education will increase,” he said.

“But if the majority is in the working age group 15-59 years, it means we are going to need to re-strategise economically to make sure we create more decent job opportunities,” added Dr Ngasamiaku.

So far so good

Mzumbe University’s economist Dr Daudi Ndaki says so far the Tanzanian government seems to have strategic plans for the growing populations.

“The President has, on many occasions, emphasised on the fact that our demographic growth should complement the available resources and we have also seen it being mentioned in some of the short and long term national plans.” “I believe the government is well prepared to handle the population growth,” he said. In terms of the numbers increasing over the span of ten years, Dr Ndaki said this has revealed how Tanzania is endowed with enough manpower.

Global prospects

The United Nations’ World Population Prospects 2022 Report shows that while the current global population is estimated at eight billion, the world’s population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050.

According to the UN, countries of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to contribute more than half of the increase anticipated through 2050.

In the organization’s statement, the UN urges investment on human capital can be a good strategy for countries to benefit from the growing populations.

This can be done so by ensuring access to health care and quality education at all ages, and by promoting opportunities for productive employment and decent work.

At a glance

Yesterday President Samia Suluhu Hassam revealed that the country’s population has increased by 37.4 percent from 44, 928, 923 people (44.92 million) that was recorded ten years ago in the 2012 national census.

Understanding the significance of the data, the President also highlighted the government commitment to incorporating the census data into the national developmental plans, through a special ten-year guideline that was also launched yesterday.

“This guideline will help in monitoring and evaluating the goals set in development plans for both sides of the union and also the international plans that Tanzania has agreed to implement,” she said.

While 59.851 million people reside in Tanzania mainland, Zanzibar is home to 1.89 million individuals.

In terms of gender, there are 31.688 million women in Tanzania, accounting for 51 percent of the total population while 30.053 million are men.

Speaking during the event, the UN Resident Coordinator in Tanzania, Mr Zlatan Milisic said through mapping, the census data could show where specific focus was required to bridge the development gap among various locations and groups.

The census exercise, said Mr Milisic, could also help to comprehend the impact of population growth on the country’s resources and in the successful implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Earlier, the chief statistician and head of National Statistics (NBS), Dr Albina Chuwa, said the Population and Housing Census, 2022, was conducted to highest levels and by following the best international practices. She said through the census, the government now has all the relevant data for Tanzanians, including those conducting small scale businesses. This, she said, would make it easy for them to get loans from commercial banks.