The President of Tanzania John Magufuli has urged women in the East African country to “set your ovaries free” and bear more children as a way to help boost the economy into a regional powerhouse.
“When you have a big population you build the economy. That’s why China’s economy is so huge,” Magufuli said late on Tuesday, citing 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.
Aljazeera reported that the President said a higher birth rate would achieve faster economic progress for the East African country.
Tanzania has sustained relatively high growth, averaging six to seven percent a year, over the past decade. At the same time, the East African nation of 55 million people already has one of the world’s highest birth rates – around five children for each woman.
Data from the UN population fund UNFPA shows Tanzania’s population is growing by about 2.7 percent annually while most public hospitals and schools are overcrowded and many young people lack jobs.
Magufuli had reported criticised Western-backed family planning programmes implemented by the nation’s health ministry.
Last year, Magufuli said curbing the birth rate was “for those too lazy to take care of their children”, and the health ministry barred broadcasting of family planning ads by a US-funded project.
While Tanzania’s poverty rate – people living on less than $1 a day – has declined to about 26 percent as of 2016, the absolute number of poor citizens has not gone down because of the high population growth rate, according to the World Bank.