When people who lived in Accra in the 1960s, 70s or even 80s are stuck in today’s terrible traffic, the conclusion they frequently draw is that the national capitalis getting clogged; residents have soared and demand for transport has increased the number of both public and private vehicles on the roads.
They do not spare the opportunity to tell the tales of yesteryears when it took less time to commute fromTeshie to Kaneshie than it now takes to move from Laterbiokoshie to Bubiashie, even though the roads were then narrow.
Their argument is not flawed. The numbers of people in the national capital have augmented drastically due to varied reasons including migration and increase in fertility rate.
But the increase in population is not peculiar to Accra. The country, like the rest of the world, has become populous. From 1960, when the first post-independence census was conducted in Ghana, the population stood at six million. That was three years after the country gained itsindependence from colonial rule in 1957.
Now in 2019, 59 years after the census of 1960 and 62 years after the country’s independence, the six million recorded, could pass for the population of Greater Accra Region alone. This is because the country’s population has quintupled (increased by five times) to an estimated 30.2million (precisely 30,280,811), according to the acting government statistician, Mr David Kombat.
This, he said, is based on an annual growth of 2.5 per cent.
Five censuses have been conducted in the country; 1960, 1970, 1984, 2000 and 2010.In 1960, the population was 6.7million; it increased to 8.5million in 1970, soared to 12.3 million in 1984 and inchedup to 18.9 million and 24.6million in 2000 and 2010 respectively.
The growth rates were 2.4 percent, 2.6 percent,2.7 percent and 2.5 respectively, according to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) which is preparing to conduct the next one in 2020.
The regional distribution of population, indicates that Ashanti Region had the highest population in the entire census years;1.1 million in 1960 to 1.4million in1970, to two million in 1984 to 3.6million 2000 to 4.7million in 2010.
It was followed by Eastern Region with one million people in 1960 to 1.2 million in 1970 and 1.6 million people in 1984. Eastern was out-populated by the Greater Accra in 2000 with 2.9 million populace and four million in 2010.
Other indicators from the United Nation’s World Population Review Report (2017) estimate that life expectancy for females in Ghana is 64.2 years and that of male is 62.1 years, with fertility rate at 3.8 children per woman.
Ghana’s population, 1960-2019
Source; Ghana Statistical Service
Causes of the growth
Aside migration, high fertility rate of the country has contributed to the rapid growth. Per the World Bank data on fertility rate — the average number of children born per woman—in Ghana as of 2016 was 3.98 as against the global standard of 2.43. Poor contraceptive use, teenage pregnancies and lack of enforcement of population control measures have all contributed to this rise in numbers.
Snags and challenges
The National Population Council (NPC), has, on several occasions, raised red flags on the impact of the increasing population on the quality of health care, education and employment.
Dr. Leticia Adelaide Appiah, Executive Director of the Council, (NPC), according to a report by the Ghana News Agency on February 15, 2019 saidunhealthy and less productive population perpetuated the poverty cycle and sustained a youthful population.
This, she said, would result in high expenditure for containing situations related to health, education and security and put pressure on other social amenities.
As a result of the youthfulness of the population, she said, only 1.5 million out of the total population size of 30 million Ghanaians paid tax; more than one million of which were in the formal sector.
Suggestions and solutions
At the same event, Dr Appiah said the country could realise benefits from its youthful population, if it took pragmatic steps to implement the national policy on population.
She said if suitablyexecuted, the policy would ensure that families were wellplanned and a productive labour forcegenerated for national development.
According to her, a comprehensive national population policy which was drafted in 1969 and reviewed in 1994 needed to be implemented.
“As of 1969, the policy set a target that by the year 2000, the growth rate of the country’s population should be reduced to 1.7 per cent, but we are still around 2.5 per cent,” she stated.
The NPC has also proposed that childbirth should be restricted to three to ensure quality in human resource of the country.
The Chinese example
The restriction of the birth policy which was effectively practiced in China when implemented in Ghana would ensure a low birth rate which will in the long run improve the distribution of the natural resources. Greater employment options and financial perks for families who comply with the policy will also help improve the standard of living of Ghanaians.
As Ghana Statistical Service is lacing its boot to conduct the 2020Population and Housing Census, the country needs to relook the effects of the population growth.
As the country strives to move beyond aid after more than 62 years of depending on it, we need not to lose sight of the fact that our increasing population and its attended socio-economic impact could impair the vision.
We must put in place the appropriate measures to mitigate the likely effects of overpopulation.