President John Magufuli pleads with Tanzania’s women to “set their ovaries free” and bear more children to boost economy

Tanzania President Dkt John Magufuli
  • President Magufuli who is no stranger to controversy says doing so would see Tanzania transform to become a regional powerhouse. 
  • He cited India and Nigeria as other examples of countries that gained from a demographic dividend. 
  • The East African nation which boasts 55 million people already has one of the world’s highest birth rates — around 5 children per woman.

President John Magufuli urged Tanzania’s women to “set their ovaries free” and bear more children as a way to help boost the economy of the East African country.

President Magufuli who is no stranger to controversy says doing so would see Tanzania transform to become a regional powerhouse. 

When you have a big population you build the economy. That’s why China’s economy is so huge,” he said late on Tuesday.

He also cited India and Nigeria as other examples of countries that gained from a demographic dividend. 

“I know that those who like to block ovaries will complain about my remarks. Set your ovaries free, let them block theirs,” he told a gathering in his home town of Chato.

This is not the first time Magufuli, who has in the past criticized Western-backed family planning programs implemented by the health ministry, urged women to sire more children.

Last year he said curbing the birth rate was “for those too lazy to take care of their children”. 

Soon thereafter a family planning ad by a US-funded project was barred from broadcasting by the health ministry.

However, Magufuli’s critics are opposed to the idea saying it would worsen inequality and poverty rather than help the country.

“High population growth in Tanzania means increased levels of poverty and income inequality,” said a rights activist based in Dar es Salaam who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity for fear of possible repercussions from the government’s ongoing review of registration of non-governmental organizations.

“Women’s ovaries should never be used as a tool for seeking economic prosperity.”

Since taking office in 2015, Magufuli has launched an industrialization campaign that has helped buoy economic growth, which has averaged 6-7% annually in recent years. But he has said a higher birth rate would achieve faster progress.

Tanzania has sustained relatively high growth, averaging 6–7% a year, over the past decade.

At the same time, the East African nation which boasts 55 million people already has one of the world’s highest birth rates — around 5 children per woman.

Data from the UN population fund UNFPA shows Tanzania’s population is growing by about 2.7% a year while most public hospitals and schools are overcrowded and many young people lack jobs.

While Tanzania’s poverty rate - people living on less than $1 a day - has declined to about 26% as of 2016, the absolute number of poor citizens has not because of the high population growth rate, according to the World Bank.

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