By Peter Sinkamba
PPRESIDENT LUNGU ANTI-EARLY MARRIAGES CAMPAIGN IS ILL-INFORMED: IS IT A MUTATION OF THE FAMILY PLANNING CONTRACEPTIVES GIMMICK OR WHAT?
President Edgar Lungu is in New York where he is attending the UN General Assembly. His key campaign message to the General Assembly is on ending early child marriages by 2030. Back home, he plan to enact a law which makes it a criminal offence to marry before the age of 21 as a deterrent to early child marriages.
The question is: Is early child marriage really an issue of serious concern in Zambia, in the first place, which is worth pushing on global scale? As The Greens, we hold a dissenting view. From empirical evidence, we do not think it is an agenda worth pushing at the level of Head of State because there is no meritorious motivation at all backed by facts. If anything, we hold the view that this anti-early child marriage thing is a mutation of the notorious contraceptives family planning gimmick which has acutely cost many gullible nations like Zambia, and thereby aggravating their poverty.
Let’s take Zambia, for example. The overall, life expectancy in Zambia, at birth has fallen to 37.5 years, is the fourth lowest in the world due to the burden of disease. The burden is particularly evident in children under age 5. It is expected that 60 per cent of babies born will not survive to the age of 40. Malaria is said to be responsible for one third of under-five deaths, with many others caused by respiratory infections, diarrhea and neo-natal conditions. Although not usually cited as the cause of death, it is estimated that malnutrition is an underlying factor in 54 per cent of child deaths. From this empirical evidence, it is very clear that environmental degradation, especially arising from pollution of air, water, and soil, is the largest culprit for high child mortality rate in Zambia. From public health point of view, early child marriage is nowhere in the picture in so far as appalling low life expectancy statistics in Zambia are concerned.
From the economic view point, of the total working-age population estimated at 8 million, females are comfortably ahead at 52 per cent while males are below at 48 per cent. Further, in terms of labour force participation, males have a lower participation rate at 77 percent as compared to females at 78 per cent. There are more economically independent women than their male counterparts.
The existing state of knowledge therefore does not warrant any clear-cut generalization that early child marriages has had an adverse effect on the women, particularly as regard to economic status. In actual fact, from statistics point of view, women are economically better off than men.
The question then is: since there is no compelling evidence which point to early child marriage as having an adverse impact on economic and health status of our female population or indeed associating the extremely low life expectancy in Zambia to early child marriages, what then is motivation for the President Lungu’s to drive the anti-early child marriage campaign at global stage? Is it because the donors are promising to provide more financial support in that direction? Or he is so gullible that he can not pick this is another family planning gimmick mutating from contraceptives to early child marriages to sustain the poverty of our masses?
As a leadership and State, we must be wary of some of these donor supported programmes anchored around ulterior motives. We must ask ourselves, why for example, early child marriage campaigns in Zambia should be priority instead of environmental pollution which is ravaging the nation and depleting valuable human capital. We must ask ourselves why all donors, but the Netherlands, have pulled out of supporting environmental pollution when this is the major contributor to the health burden in our country. We must ask ourselves why longevity of our lives should not worth supporting by any well-meaning donor.
We hold the view that Zambians should always be wary of some misleading Western theoretical analyses which argue that high population growth creates pressures on limited natural resources, reduces private and public capital formation, and diverts additions to capital resources to maintaining rather than increasing the stock of capital per worker. If this argument has substance, we must ask ourselves why the top most populous countries in the world are the richest too.
To make sense of our argument, lets scan what will be of the populous nations in next few decades, as discussed below. While we acknowledge that there could no single driver of any nation’s future; and that there could be very different drivers pushing the economies of those countries forward or indeed interacting with each other in some unanticipated ways, no doubt about it, we believe high population is one of the most powerful drivers of any nation’s prosperity.
Here in Africa, for example, we must ask ourselves why Nigeria, the most populous country, is richest on the continent. And we must ask ourselves why Nigeria, as a country which is projected to be the fourth most populace nation on earth in 2050, its economy is set to be almost the same as France and Saudi Arabia. We must ask ourselves why by 2050, Nigeria’s economy is projected to be bigger than economies of South Korea, Italy, Canada, Netherlands, Argentina, Poland and several other rich nations.
As will be noted below from the global economy/population forecast for 2050, Nigeria, which is projected to be the third most populous nation in the world, will enter the Top 20 richest nations in the world at number 14 as follows:
1. China — $58.499 trillion — 1.366 billion people
2. India — $44.128 trillion — 1.661 billion people
3. United States — $34.102 trillion — 0.398 billion people
4. Indonesia — $10.502 trillion — 0.366 billion people
5. Brazil — $7.540 trillion — 0.226 billion
6. Russia — $7.131 trillion — 0.l74 billion
7. Mexico — $6.863 trillion — 0.157 billion
14. Nigeria — $4.348 trillion — 0.397 billion
From above empirical evidence, clearly there is need for more intensive research on the impact of early child marriages on Zambia, currently and in the past. Otherwise, we are shooting in the dark or rather shooting ourselves in the foot because from the economic point of view, one driver is certain: the most populous nations have rapidly advanced as consumers. The wealth created by these countries’ growth has created a substantial middle class. Putting a precise number on the size of this segment of the population remains tricky, but however large it is, the current middle class of any one of the most populous nations is a mere fraction of what it will become as hundreds of millions more people join its ranks during the next decades into 2050. This growth trajectory represents a powerful opportunity to help develop the retail sector of any nation and thereby the prosperity of its people.
On the basis of the foregoing premise, we the Greens posit a different approach to sexuality. We plan to put in place policy interventions which will produce quantum leaps in population growth. If need be, we plan providing enthralling incentives to parents who produce more and more children so that Zambia grows it population ten to twenty fold by 2050. The evidence of population growth as a means to confront head-on the daunting long-term challenge of poverty reduction in the world is compelling.
The Green Party