If Malawi does not take serious action on the country’s explosive population growth, the development gains she has made in recent years will be in vain.
At least these were the statements of The Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe and the US Embassy Charge d’affaires, Andrew Herrup at the opening ceremony of the 2016 National Population and Development Conference in Lilongwe.
Speaking when he launched the Demographic Dividend Report whose research was done in 2015, Gondwe said what was needed to control the population boom was action.
“We can go on and on talking about what is wrong and what should be done but that is not enough. But now is time for action. In the ministries of agriculture, health and education we know what we should do but implementation is the number one key at the moment,” he said.
Herrup also stressed the need for Malawi to make addressing population growth a priority if it was to secure its demographic dividend adding that not putting strict actions to address this issue would have serious implications.
“With the crush of students, the Ministry of Education will be hard pressed to maintain standards of good education, which would translate to higher unemployment among the youth who are ill equipped to compete for the limited jobs,” said Herrup.
He said another implication of this population boom which was already being experienced by many chiefs in the country, was the increased pressure on the land which has led to massive environmental degradation as people struggle to grow enough food.
Herrup said addressing Malawi’s population growth was not a matter for policy makers at the ministry of health but that of traditional and religious as well as cultural gate keepers too.
While hailing Traditional Authority Kachindamoto for annulling hundreds of child marriages in her village Herrup stated that this action government and leaders ought to emulate.
UN resident coordinator Mia Seppo also speaking at the same function, said never before has been so many young people in the world and never before has there been so many young population in Malawi as well hence the need for Malawi to take actions to tap like never before into the resources of these young people.
Dr Elias Zulu of African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) said if Malawi maximized the value of Malawi’s youthful population it would earn a significant demographic dividend.
He said there a huge need for Malawi to make strategic investments in the youth as they are critical agents for positive socioeconomic change, if they are empowered to innovate and lead economic productivity.
“The price of inaction is high, uneducated, unskilled, unemployed and disillusioned youth can be agents of social unrest, crime and violent extremism,” he said.
Currently statistics show that over 80 percent of Malawi’s projected 17.2 million is below 35 years old and 46 percent are below 15 years.
The three day conference whose theme is empowering, educating, and employing youth to harness the demographic dividend and achieve sustainable development in Malawi is expected to review the findings and recommendations of the 2016 study that assessed the country’s potential to harness the demographic dividend and come up with strategic policy reforms.