Unusually for an African country, a Botswana of the future will experience a problem usually associated with rich western countries.
“Aging population internationally will have an effect on the nature of our markets internationally. It would have a major effect on us in terms of what we need to do in order to be able to sustain our aging population in years to come,” said Gaborone Bonnington South MP, Ndaba Gaolathe in his contribution to the debate on the National Development Plan 11 motion.
In buttressing that point to Sunday Standard, the MP said that according to the 2011 census, life expectancy in Botswana has bounced back to 68 years versus the 56 years of 10 years ago. Some five percent of the population is over 65 years.
“Going forward, as the population ages, it will place more pressure on the working population to be more productive to support the aged.,” Gaolathe said.
The Population and Development Coordination Section in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MFED) also addresses the issue of an ageing population through a July 2015 document titled “Fertility Situation in Botswana.” The report finds that the high fertility levels experienced by most Sub-Saharan African countries in the 1970s have declined significantly over the years. Botswana, Zimbabwe and Kenya are pioneers of the fertility transition that is currently prevailing in the region. Botswana experienced higher fertility decline during the 1980s, which decreased from 6.6 in 1981 to 3.3 in 2001, and later to 2.8 in 2011.
“The decline in fertility could be a result of higher enrolment rates in education for women which contributes to delayed childbearing, delayed age at marriage and increased knowledge and use of contraceptives to name a few,” the report says.
Evidence shows that the proportion of the urban population in Botswana has risen from 9.1 percent in 1971 to 64 percent in 2011. Urban women tend to have smaller family sizes compared to their rural counterparts. An analysis of the age-specific fertility rates in Botswana shows a substantial decrease among the 15-29 year olds particularly between 2001 and 2011. The highest rates of fertility are concentrated among the mid-year ages 20-34 years.
The MFED study says that one of the policy implications of declining fertility is that “as fertility continues to fall and life expectancy improves, an increased number of the elderly population is anticipated, hence the need for government to plan for this increase in the long run.” In distilling the latter recommendation to a deliverable, Gaolathe says that “higher employment levels and upskilling will be fundamental.”
The study also found higher levels of fertility among married than single or other women and that “HIV/AIDS may result in increased use of contraceptives (especially condoms) to prevent pregnancies as well as infection, which may lead to reduced fertility. Studies have revealed that overall fertility of HIV positive women is lower than that of the HIV negative ones.”