Cablegate: Uganda's Population Boom Jeopardizes Development Gains

DE RUEHKM #1611 3521233
R 171233Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Two new demographic studies in Uganda show that
the country has one of the highest population growth rates in the
world, creating a demographic time bomb which threatens to undermine
Uganda's recent economic gains and political stability. According
to one study, Uganda's population increased by 3.2%, or one million
people, to 29.6 million during 2007. Another study shows that
between now and 2050, Uganda is expected to have the highest
population increase in the world, with total population rising by
263% to nearly 78 million. Together, the reports stand as a strong
rebuke to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's pro-growth position on
population and highlight challenges that the Government of Uganda
must address immediately. End Summary.

2. (U) Uganda's population increased by 3.2%, or one million people,
to 29.6 million during 2007, according to a report released by
Uganda's Population Secretariat at the Ministry of Finance, Planning
and Economic Development on November 11. The report, "The State of
Uganda Population Report 2008," published with support from the UN
Population Fund (UNFPA), provides evidence that the rapid rate of
population growth is already creating deleterious effects throughout
society and the economy. Twelve percent of women of reproductive
age are undernourished, it states, while 38% of children under five
years old demonstrate stunted growth. Government policy makers will
face increasing social conflict over access to land, employment,
energy, clean water, education, housing, transportation, and health
services, as well as greater food insecurity because the subdivision
of farms among competing heirs will cause lower agricultural
productivity. The report urges the GOU to work deliberately to
ensure a sustainable population growth rate, particularly by
increasing contraceptive use, which currently stands at only about
24% among married women.

3. (U) According to a second report, published by the
non-governmental Population Reference Bureau (PRB), Uganda's ratio
of those not in the labor force compared to those currently working
is the highest in the world at 116%. Forty-nine percent of the
population is below 15 years old. The contraceptive "unmet need"
(defined as the percentage of women of reproductive age who do not
want more children but are not using any form of contraception) of
Ugandan women stands at 34.6%.

4. (SBU) Both reports challenge Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's
own pro-growth position on population. Museveni, who gained power
when the country was depopulated after years of conflict, continues
to advocate population growth in order to spur economic growth and
expand markets. "The wealth of a nation is not in the soils and
stones," he stated in July 2008. "It is in its people, its
population. I do not agree with the alarmism over the high rate of
population growth." Such comments come despite ample evidence that
the country's rapidly growing population is overwhelming Uganda's
infrastructure, social services, and educational institutions.
Further, the Ugandan President has yet to acknowledge the growing
body of evidence demonstrating that demographic "youth bulges,"
coupled with high unemployment rates, have the potential to
seriously undermine a country's development and political stability
by generating higher levels of crime, political violence, and

5. (SBU) Comment: The Population Secretariat's report is evidence
that at least some GOU officials understand Uganda's demographic
challenges, but Museveni's own staunch, pro-growth position is
alarming. While the GOU has developed policies for reproductive
health and family planning, in coordination with UNFPA and donors
including USAID, political commitment to implementation of those
policies is lacking. The GOU has not spent funds on contraceptive
commodities in the past two years, for example, and few high-level
officials outside of the Population Secretariat have ever made
statements contradicting the President's position on this issue.
Both UNFPA and USAID have current programs with elements to provide
family planning services. USAID allocated $10 million to programs
aimed at strengthening family planning services in 2008 and will
award a $39 million five-year project in early 2009 to focus on
family planning and child survival in 15 of Uganda's 80 districts.
The PEPFAR program also spent $2 million on condom procurement for
HIV prevention in 2008. While such donor programming is a step in
the right direction, all of Uganda's political and economic gains of
recent years are in jeopardy if the GOU does not adjust course and
take action now to address its impending demographic disaster. End

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