Kampala — President Museveni yesterday praised a large population as a very important resource for economic development even as he admitted that he runs a country with more than 25 million homesteads wallowing in poverty.
The President, who was launching the 2014 National Population Census in Kampala, however, noted that the 34.6 million Ugandans will only benefit the country if they are of "quality, not human beings without value addition."
"A big population is important to our quest for socio-economic transformation set out in Vision 2040," Mr Museveni said. "Population growth is a strategic contribution to the regional common market of 160 million people."
"Rich countries depend on their people. Japan and South Korea don't have minerals, not even land for agriculture but they are among the prosperous countries because of human resource. Population is very important, people consume and buy what we produce and create wealth."
Giving the highlights of the fifth post-independence National Population and Housing Census, Dr Ben Mungyereza, the executive director Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBoS), put the population at 34.6 million from 24.4 million in 2002, indicating an increase of 10.2 million people.
Dr Mungyereza promised to issue another analytical report in the coming weeks, detailing and explaining the implication of the latest findings. He said the current population growth is like a "39 sixty-sitter buses added per day."
"More people must be in school to avoid having a group of people who are a problem to the country. We are increasing in number but the land is not increasing. Only 2.5 per cent have some something to do. Young people are playing pool because they don't have skills."
Although life expectancy has increased from 50.4 years in 2002 to now 63.3 years, President Museveni said with more emphasis on immunisation, improved water supply, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, behavioural change, life expectancy could be 70 years.
Although results show a positive picture on socio-economic indicators, the president is concerned that 69 per cent of the homesteads (more than 25.2 million people ) in the country are "moneyless" and only 31 per cent are involved in the money economy.
Using a name of a village in Busoga [Lambaala - meaning "sleep" in Lusoga] to explain why majority of Ugandans are still trapped in rags of poverty, Mr Museveni noted that since 1991, the population of the people in subsistence farming has remained the same because majority of Ugandans are "sleeping".
"Sixty nine per cent of households are sleeping. They are moneyless. They don't have money because they are engaged in subsistence farming," Mr Museveni said.
Some households are too poor that they depend on remittances to put food on the table. These, according to the population census figures, constitute about 18 per cent of the households.
Although the number of Ugandans sleeping in permanent houses stands at 70 per cent and more than 60 per cent have cemented floors, the President indicated that all these will be meaningless if people don't have money.
The President singled out land fragmentation and subsistence farming as the major impediments to social transformation and promised to "open a war" on subsistence farming.
Explaining the dangers of land fragmentation, Mr Museveni said:
"Land fragmentation is the real threat to the prosperity of Uganda. We have been having disabled people, now we are going to have disabled land through wrong inheritance practices and bad human settlements." He added: "If it was during [former president] Idi Amin's era, he would have issued a decree against sub-dividing land.
Illuminating on the advantages of urbanisation, the President noted that the number of Ugandans living in towns had increased from four per cent in 1986 to 21 per cent in 2014. However, the president was quick to add that although seven million Ugandans live in towns out of a population of 34.6 million is an improvement, it is a characteristic of backwardness.
"High rate of population living in rural areas is a characteristic of backwardness," Mr Museveni said. "USA only has two per cent of its population living in rural areas but in our case, it used to be at 90 per cent."
Dr Mungyereza told the President that even with Universal Primary Education (UPE), at least 10 per cent of children aged between 6-12 years have never gone to school and 22 per cent left school before completing.
"This statistic means there is a fundamental problem that needs to be solved before it is too late," Dr Mungyereza said, adding that "even one child who is not in UPE and there is UPE is a serious problem."
However, he noted that literacy increased from 70 per cent to 72 per cent with males leading.
Access to electricity has also increased from eight per cent to 20 per cent. However, Dr Mungyereza observed that majority Ugandans are still using candles and Tadooba and eight per cent don't have access to toilets but "are using dangerous alternatives". He said lack of toilets in some districts stands at 70 per cent.
In spite of the challenges highlighted by the statistics, Mr Museveni told the country that "Things are moving" and that "limited education" and immunisation are leading to positive improvements. "There is work to be done but we are moving forward."
The current population of Uganda, according to the National Population and Housing Census 2014.
The population of Uganda 10 years ago, according to the National Population and Housing Census 2002.
The life expectancy of Ugandans according to the National Population and Housing Census 2014.