Research has shown that huge investment in family planning among other interventions would lower fertility rates and pregnancies of Nigeria’s burgeoning young population put at 40 percent, and ultimately position them to contribute to growing the country’s workforce and accelerating economic development.
By projection and with current fertility rate, the nation’s population will be about double to over 400 Million by 2050, the 2020 Population Data Sheet states.
Experts say that having a very large proportion of young people in a nation’s population structure can present numerous challenges as well as opportunities. Sadly, Nigeria is largely populated with people under the younger age group than working age group.
In view of Nigeria’s current status, with fewer births each year and a decline in fertility rates among the youthful populace, the country can reap economic gains by increasing the active workforce. More working adults than children, more workers than dependents would present a window of opportunity for accelerated economic development.
The trend is defined as a demographic dividend. Though this is not automatic because there must be strong planning and investments in family planning, education, health, infrastructure, and good governance to convert the opportunity to all-round economic growth.
Economic growth of any country is measured by its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within the country’s border in a specific time period. As a broad measure of overall domestic production, it functions as a comprehensive scorecard of a given country’s economic health.
In effect, for Nigeria to reach its development goals, the country must reduce its fertility rate by investing in family planning and child spacing.
Reproductive health experts define fertility as a natural capability to produce offspring. When fertility rates in a community increases, more babies are born.
Stating some challenges posed by having a huge young population in a forum recently, Dr. Amina Dorayi, the Country Director, Pathfinder International Nigeria, said, that Nigeria needs to grow more food to feed her increased population. This raises questions about food security. Other associated challenges to this include nutrition and climate change.
Without investments and labour policies, a large number of people will be jobless. This may pose security challenges and a breakdown of law and order. There is also the aspect of rural-urban migration and stretching of social services beyond their threshold.
The way forward is for Nigeria to lower its fertility rate in order to slow down population explosion and grow economically through strong family planning programmes supported by all stakeholders.
Lowering fertility would enable today’s large young population to enter adulthood with fewer dependents, adding that, with favourable education, health, labour policies, a larger proportion can be employed and support economic growth.
In addition, investment in infrastructure and attracting investments can also help the teeming population gainfully employed.
The arrangement has to be now and continue to be dynamic with emerging issues every day. Leaders need to be challenged to ensure quality education and healthcare are provided and all skills acquisition is prioritised, infrastructure optimised, as well as continuous attraction of investment.
Without these, today’s economic depression and its attendant challenges will be amplified as the number of young people continue to grow along with the demand for social services.
There is evidence that Nigeria’s high fertility rate is due to high demand for children which is rooted in culture, traditions, social norms, early marriages, and high unmet need for family planning.
All these have adverse effect on maternal health, especially if the births are not adequately spaced, it affects the physical, mental, and social well-being of women and children.
Also, the risk of mortality in infancy and early childhood is greater for closely spaced births and for the mother, high risk of hemorrhaging and mortality.
Indeed, increasing contraceptive use among Nigerians would lower the country’s fertility rate. However, to reduce the high Total Fertility Rate in Nigeria, there is a need to increase the uptake of family planning services among women of reproductive age.
There is therefore critical need for sustained advocacy to the governments for funding and enabling policy environment to reduce barriers to family planning access to the barest minimum as well as increase demand generation.
By reducing the fertility rate of young women through investment in family planning, maternal and child mortality would drop. Undoubtedly, this will enhance Nigeria’s labour force, with more opportunities created for young mothers who have access to contraceptives to control pregnancies and childbirths, now able to deploy their efforts to economic benefits. Ultimately, this would provide a further window of opportunity for accelerated GDP and economic development.