• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Population growth versus development

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nation that is endowed with huge population needs to be more focused than those with small population.Today, “the world has about 7.2 billion people, with Africa being the second most populous continent with a population of 1.111 billion or 15 percent of the world’s population”. Currently, Nigeria is estimated to have a population of about 175 million people which is 15.75 percent of Africa’s population. That is, one out of every five Africans is a Nigerian.By the year 2050, “Nigeria’s population is predicted to hit 400 million, while that of the world would be about 10.9 billion”. That is, Nigeria would be expected to have a population that is about 3.67 percent of the world. Could this then be true as we are dealing with projected figures? Although, UN projections show a continued increase in population in the near future with a steady decline in growth rate, Nigeria has a responsibility to start thinking about the consequences of a large population. According to a UN report, “the nation’s environment cannot keep pace with a population rising at the rate of 2.47 percent annually”.A source of concern about this projected figures is that employment, infrastructure, social amenities, housing and health facilities are not growing at the same rate. This perhaps may be due to inadequate resources available at the nation’s disposal.

David Landes in his book titled ‘The Wealth and Poverty of Nations’ theorized that we live in a world of inequality and diversity where the world is divided along three broad categories namely: “those that spend lots of money to keep their weight down; those whose people eat to live; and those whose people do not know where the next meal is coming from”. We are endowed with these categories of people in Nigeria. Importantly, the theory of evolution which posits that the strongest survives whilst the weakest goes into extinction is of relevance in this treatise. This is because Nigeria like other developing countries is a “dual economy” in which a group of people are rich while others are poor but both being united by a common way of life. Both ways of life exist side-by-side such that what the rich spends daily is equal or more than what the hardest working member of the other gets in a month. The factor of unity is the market that both the poor and the rich in the society patronize to purchase goods and services.

Population growth does not give rise to development in any nation if it is not well managed. An unmanaged population growth will in most cases give rise to two world-wide concerns namely: mass unemployment and mass migration to cities.World Bank statistics reflects that unemployment in Nigeria is 38 percent, which by estimation is high. We can see this in Nigeria currently where those in search of jobs are migrating to cities such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Abuja. This is what usually happens in a “dual economy” such as Nigeria where about 15 percent of the population are confined to one or two big cities, while the remaining 85 percent are either in rural areas or small towns.  On the contrary, the dual economy unless cautiously countered produces what is referred to by Fitzgerald Schumacher as “mutual poisoning” in which industrial development in cities destroy the economic structure in rural areas. Consequently, rural areas payback through mass migration into cities, harming them and making them unmanageable. The cities are therefore congested, infrastructure overstretched with increased crime rate.

Development of any nation according to Fitzgerald Schumacher “does not start with goods and services,it starts with people and their education, organization, and discipline”. Without these three, all resources remain latent, untapped and potential. That is why, we have cocoa but value is added to it in another country to produce chocolates in different forms.These chocolates are imported back to the country. Let us not be deceived to believing that a population growth per annum of more than 2 percent will give rise to economic growth. Some may argue that when the size of population is huge it is good for the economy as it reflects large market. Large market however, does not necessarily correspond with large population but the purchasing power of the people in the society in question. I think this argument is quite illuminating for some Nigerians who erroneously believe that population coincides with the size of market, and thus a sign of development.

The prime causes of underdevelopment and poverty are deficiencies in education, organization and discipline. If we decide as a nation to use agriculture as the basis for the development of our rural areas, then basic infrastructure must be extended to those living in those areas of the country.Can we sustain implementation of the agricultural transformation agenda to develop rural areas, and not only to provide food and employment for the jobless? If the answer is affirmative, then the agricultural transformation agenda will be beneficial to the nation in terms of development.We therefore have a collective responsibility to ensure that the agricultural transformation agenda works.

If we do not want population growth to be an impediment to development, we have to start educating as well as admonishing people to have the number of children they can feed, clothe and educate. There will be no development in having so many children that cannot be adequately catered for by parents and ultimately the government. It was in those days that families chose to be large to enable them manage farms or fight tribal wars. Today’s war is that of economic survival. As policy makers are busy shopping for foreign and local investors, as well as provide electricity, they must also be considering ways of ensuring that necessary steps are taken by individuals, and families to maintain a manageable family size.

M.A. Johnson