I wish to welcome you all to the maiden ‘Letter to the motherland’. Every week I will share with readers the perspective of an African, born and raised, currently living in the Midwest of America - Detroit, Michigan.
When I first came to Rwanda, in May 1994 and by the time I left Rwanda, fourteen years later, I had traveled through every corner of the country.
Not once did I go a mile without seeing a human being. This was all in sharp contrast to what I experienced driving here. On the road from Knoxville, Tennessee to Detroit, Michigan – an eight hour drive - I drove past hundreds of miles of vast empty lands without seeing a single person.
Now, I am put off by shameful comparisons between the richest country in the world and Rwanda, but I still feel that Rwanda’s population statistics are untenable.
The Population Institute, an NGO that seeks to promote access to family planning information, estimates that by 2050, our population will have reached 21,800,000.
But are these just crunchy numbers or do they have a significant bearing on Rwanda’s future? Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace publish an annual ranking of failed states, all of which - without exception - have high population growth rates.
The top ten countries in the 2009 Failed States Index have total fertility rates substantially higher than the global average of 2.6.
High population growth rates make it more difficult for less developed countries to provide adequate schooling, nutrition and immunization. Population pressure if not addressed aggressively will pose a significant challenge to economic advancement and the attainment of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals in Rwanda.
Population pressure is a challenge that needs to be addressed by every citizen of the country. There is a need to weave crucial partnerships between the media, education, public sector and government to send a strong message that Rwanda’s prosperity may well depend on her ability to curb her population.
Providing universal access to family planning, empowering women and modifying school curricula to include information on population control are some suggestions put into consideration to avert this looming challenge.
The blueprint for Rwanda’s medium term prosperity, ‘Vision 2020’ predicts that the population is expected to double to around 16 million by 2020 – with a tiny annotation on the same page that anticipates a more reasonable 13 million projection, ‘[if] family planning improves’.
As we draw closer to 2020, it is important that the fourth estate plays the crucial role of sending a message to the country that population control is everyone’s business.
Rwanda as a country achieves everything it sets its eyes on, from scoring accolades as a leading African tourism destination to being the best performer in this year’s Doing Business Index.
If this is equally addressed as an important item of the nation’s agenda of reforms, there is no doubt that the country will mitigate the long term impact of an ever rising population pressure.
The author is a student, freelance writer and policy analyst based in the US.