Should Tanzania's current population growth projection remain intact, the country's population will hit 51 million in 2016 straining the provision of basic services, new data shows.
According to the preliminary results of an August 2012 census released by President Jakaya Kikwete Monday, the east African nation currently has 44.9 million people, with 1.3 million of these in Zanzibar and 43.6 million are on the mainland.
In the last census carried out in 2002, Tanzania had a population of 34.4 million. But the country's growth declined to 2.6 per cent between 2002 and 2012, compared to 2.9 per cent between 1988 and 2002.
"It may not be seen as a problem, especially for a vast country like ours, but it is a big burden economically and socially," President Kikwete said.
"With 50 million people, it will be very difficult for the government to cater for the needs of its people because there will be resource scarcity."
Dr Joseph Mshafi, a medical consultant with the Tanzania arm of PSI, the global health organisation, agrees.
"Tanzania has a lot of children. The population increase corresponds with an increase in the number of people of child-bearing age. These will soon reach the age of child bearing and we will have a massive reproduction rate. With such a big population growth there will be a big impact on the economy."
President Kikwete highlighted the importance of formulating development strategies to meet the needs of the projected 51 million people.
He urged Tanzanians to plan families so as to take care of their members adequately.
However, the 2012 census results are below the projection of 45,798,475 people seen in 2002. Nevertheless, the total population by 2002 had almost tripled in 35 years
Said Dr Mshafi: “The segment of the population with unmet needs accounts for 22 per cent. This is a section of the population that is potentially supposed to use family planning methods, but does not do so.”
Reasons for this include inaccessibility to the services and their unaffordability. Although the country’s policy advocates free family planning services, they are not provided free of charge.
According to Dr Mshafi, Tanzania fares well in family planning in spite of such problems. “We are on the right track despite budgetary constraints," he said.
Tanzania’s population growth is the second lowest in the East African region after that of Burundi of 2.3 per cent, according to the World Bank. Uganda has the highest at 3.2 per cent, followed by Rwanda at 2.96 per cent and Kenya 2.7 per cent.
Analysts say the declining growth rate suggests more women are becoming more engaged with the economy, and more educated.
The however cautioned that despite a decrease, the current rate of economic growth of about 6.5 per cent does not support a population growth rate of 2.6 per cent.