Uganda’s population has hit the 40 million mark, according to government statistics agency Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS).

According to UBS projections, Uganda’s population his the 40 million mark on Thursday at 4:00AM. This according to their population clock which updates growth hourly.

The statistics that are fed into the population clock are generated from the annual projections. The UBOS annual population projections (31st June 2018 to 31st June 2019) indicate that the population will be 40,308,000 people at the end of June.

Johnsone Galande, a principal population statistician at UBOS confirmed to URN that they use internationally recognized demographics models and software to generate population projections.

“The population clock is supposed to give you every second changes in population,” says Galande. “And this was on demand. People would come and say, for me I don’t want the projected population by mid-year July 1st, I want the population as of today. That is why we thought of coming up with the population clock.”

Galande says statisticians use a model called complex interpolation to determine population of each day. This model is used to generate codes for each day, such that when entered in the demography software, it can show population of that particular day.

He described the models used to generate population projections as laborious but dependable. He said these are the only options statisticians use for projections given that there are no precise deaths, birth rates and immigration statistics in most developing countries.

UBOS generates population projections at three levels; national, district and sub county level. UBOS had also planned to generate projections at parish level but they had to abandon the idea after many parishes were merged to create sub counties and others elevated to sub county status.

At national level, UBOS uses the cohort component model to generate population projections. This method takes into account, fertility rate, mortality rate and migration. The assumptions of the three variables, Galande says are generated by populations experts. Groups of experts—fertility and mortality—convene to identify two scenarios/assumptions that are in turn based on to make projections.

The assumptions are plugged in demographic models developed by United Nation experts which then generate projections forward and backward. Going backwards, assumed variables must give precise population of previous years and particularly census figures. This is what gives credibility to forward projections.

UBOS specifically use a demography software called spectrum for national projection. At district and sub-county, UBOS use growth rate and complex interpolation models.   “When we use these methods, the total population of districts must add up to the national projection because we have already fixed it. If they don’t add, we interpolate. This means getting a factor that can make things balance,” says Galande.

He says a new software called Padis-Int was developed by Chinese recently gives 15 options which can be used to generate regional population projections. “We have trained our officers to use this software. I told you we have revised projections basing on 2016 DHS figures. We used both Spectrum and Padis-Int,” he says.

What is critical, Galande says is making the right assumptions which are plugged in projection software.

Policy level  

Uganda population, according to demographers moved from pre-transition stage-high fertility and mortality-to early transition stage in mid 2000s. Early transition stage is characterised by dropping child mortality rate and high fertility rate. That is why Uganda’s population composition is highly dominated by young age structure.

UBOS projections show that population will clock 50 million in 2027, 60 million in 2034 and 70 million by 2040. The fertility rate has reduced from 7.1 in 1969 to 5.4 in 2016 and is projected continue going down, albeit slowly.

The population growth has triggered debate among economists on investment priorities-infrastructure vs human capital development and investment in family planning. Government in the past decade has focused on investment in infrastructure. But some economists are pushing for balanced investment in both human capital/social sector and infrastructure sector.

The director of development planning at National Planning Authority, Dr. Patrick Birungi says the population growth is high and there is a need for policies to reduce it. He says population has been going down in the past decades because of government investment in girl child education. Dr. Birungi says there is a need for increased investment in family planning reduce the growth rate.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country representative, Alain Sibenaler says Uganda’s population growth rate and fertility rate dilemma will solve it self once population is availed with right services such as family planning and education. For instance, he says a third of Ugandan families aspire to use family planning but can’t access it or afford it.

Sibenaler says government should underscore the importance of investing in girl child education. He says it’s the most important but also the cheapest mean of curbing population growth.   //Cue in: “the single most… Cue out:…most important thing.”//

Joseph Enyimu, a senior economist at Ministry of Finance says population growth rate and fertility rate is reducing as per 20114 census results. He says government has been encouraging population reduction trend through investment in education and health.

Enyimu says government has put in place a demographic dividend strategy meant to ensure that young people participate in production through tapping opportunities created by government and private sector.

Enyimu says the economy is creating jobs in both formal and formal sector. “The number of unemployed people has reduced. That meant the economy is delivering jobs. Now, the issue is the quality of jobs and that is where we are focusing our attention,” he says.

Dr. Madina Guloba, a senior research fellow at Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), Makerere University says investment in human capital is critical for Uganda’s population dominated by young people who are in productive stage.

The article was published online by The Independent on April 5, 2019