At an annual growth rate of 2.5%, the United Nations forecasts that Nigeria is poised to displace the US and become the third most populous country in the world by 2050, after China and India.
As Africa’s most populous country and the world’s seventh with an estimated population of 213 million people, the forecast says, at the current growth rate, Nigeria will double its population and hit an excess of 400 million people by 2050.
About 72% of the country’s population are youths below 30 (a highly reproductive age), and concerns have continued to grow over authorities’ failure to harness this youthful population for economic growth.
But in response to the rising population growth, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Revised National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development yesterday in Abuja.
Nigeria’s overbearing population faced with shrinking resources means that the government must devise means of controlling the growth to improve general living standards.
Buhari stressed that, among other things, the Policy aims to expand access to modern contraceptive methods across the country and address the high fertility rate to check the nation’s booming population.
“This will enable Nigeria to achieve rapid fertility control, improve the health of women, adolescents, newborns and children, and other population groups,” the President said.
He said the move is necessary because not only does Nigeria have a generally youthful population, but also because half of the female population are in their reproductive years (15-49 years).
“These levels have implications for sustained population growth and narrowed prospects to achieving population management, facilitating sufficient demographic transition, harnessing our demographic endowment and eventually realising sustainable development,” Buhari said.
The revised population policy document is also expected to guide the implementation of the nation’s mid-term and National Development Plan, also launched to help Nigeria unlock its potential in all sectors of the economy for a sustainable, holistic, and inclusive national development.
“‘It will further address concerns of the large population of young people who are our pride, our future and assets to drive our development efforts,” President Buhari added.
At the launch, the UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, expressed the belief that the Policy will bring the linkages between population and development and inform work and services to improve the well-being and lives of Nigerians.
“The world and UN look forward to a Nigeria with low maternal mortality; low teenage pregnancy and childbirth; reduced fertility rate, increased utilisation of modern contraceptive methods and high education attainment, among others,” Schmale said. He pledged continued support to the National Population Commission towards the forthcoming national census.