Zimbabwe needs a population boom to develop rapidly

Marshall Rufura Ndlela, [email protected]

ZIMBABWE has a population of about 15,2 million people, according to the 2022 national census. It is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.

While some may see this as an advantage, Zimbabwe should be worried about its low population and why it needs a population boom to develop.

First, a low population means a small domestic market for goods and services. This limits the potential for economic growth and diversification, as well as the creation of jobs and income.

A small market also reduces the incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship, as there is less demand and competition. A larger population would increase the size and diversity of the market, creating more opportunities for producers and consumers, and stimulating economic activity.

Second, a low population means a lack of human capital and skills. Human capital is the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the people that contribute to the production and development of a country. A low population means fewer people who can work, learn, and innovate.

It also means fewer people who can provide essential services such as health, education, and security. A low population also affects the quality of human capital, as there is less investment in education and training, and less exposure to new ideas and technologies.

A larger population would increase the quantity and quality of human capital, enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of the country.

Thirdly, a low population means a vulnerability to external shocks and threats.

A low population means fewer people who can defend the country from external aggression, natural disasters, and pandemics.

It also means fewer people who can participate in regional and global affairs, and influence the decisions that affect the country’s interests.

A low population also affects the country’s bargaining power and leverage, as it reduces its economic and political weight. A larger population would increase the security and sovereignty of the country, and enable it to play a more active and influential role in the world.

One example of a country that has failed to develop due to low population is Botswana. Botswana is a neighbouring country of Zimbabwe, with a similar land area but a much smaller population of about 2,3 million people. Botswana has been praised for its political stability, democratic governance, and prudent management of its natural resources, especially diamonds.

However, Botswana has also been criticised for its slow and uneven economic development, high inequality, and poor social indicators.
Botswana has one of the lowest population densities in the world, with only four people per square kilometre. This has hampered its economic diversification, industrialisation, and urbanisation, as well as its human development, especially in health and education.

Botswana has also been vulnerable to external shocks, such as the HIV/Aids epidemic, the global financial crisis, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Botswana’s low population has limited its domestic market, human capital, and international influence, making it difficult for the country to achieve sustainable and inclusive development.

Another example of a country that has failed to develop due to low population is Mongolia. Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia, with a vast territory of about 1,6 million square kilometres but a sparse population of about 3,3 million people.

Mongolia has abundant natural resources such as coal, copper, gold, and uranium, and has experienced rapid economic growth in recent years. However, Mongolia has also faced serious challenges, such as high poverty, inequality, corruption, environmental degradation, and social unrest.

Mongolia has one of the lowest population densities in the world, with only two people per square kilometre. This has hindered its economic diversification, infrastructure development, and service delivery, as well as its human development, especially in rural areas.

Mongolia has also been vulnerable to external shocks, such as the commodity price fluctuations, the climate change impacts, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mongolia’s low population has constrained its domestic market, human capital, and regional integration, making it difficult for the country to achieve balanced and resilient development.

One example of a country that has developed due to a high population growth is China. China is the most populous country in the world, with about 1,4 billion people.

China has achieved remarkable economic and social development in the past four decades, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, becoming the second-largest economy in the world, and improving its living standards and human development.

China has a high population density, with about 152 people per square kilometre. This has facilitated its economic transformation, industrialisation, and urbanisation, as well as its human development, especially in education and health.

China has also been able to leverage its large population to enhance its domestic market, human capital, and global influence, making it a major player in the world. China’s high population growth has been a key driver of its development success.

Another example of a country that has developed due to a high population growth is India. India is the second-most populous country in the world, with about 1,4 billion people as well. India has achieved impressive economic and social development in the past three decades, becoming the fifth-largest economy in the world, reducing its poverty rate, and advancing its democracy and diversity.

India has a high population density, with about 481 people per square kilometre. This has enabled its economic diversification, innovation, and entrepreneurship, as well as its human development, especially in literacy and life expectancy.

India has also been able to utilise its large population to expand its domestic market, human capital, and regional leadership, making it a key partner in the world.

India’s high population growth has been a vital factor of its development progress. This clearly shows that Zimbabwe should be worried about its low population and why it needs a population boom to develop.

A low population limits the country’s economic, social, and political potential, and exposes it to various risks and challenges.

A larger population would boost the country’s development prospects, and improve its well-being and   status.

Therefore, Zimbabwe should adopt policies and programs that encourage and support population growth, such as improving health care, reducing mortality, increasing fertility, and attracting immigration.

Zimbabwe has a lot of natural and cultural resources, but it needs more people to harness and enjoy them. Everyone should go forth and multiply!

l Marshall Ndlela is a Zimbabwean based in South Africa. He is a holder of a Master’s Degree in Finance and Accounting from the University Of Chichester, England. He can be contacted on [email protected]

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