Tanzanian President Magufuli Pushes Against Family Planning


On September 25, Tanzanian President John Magufuli voiced his opposition to contraception and suspended family planning advertisements until further review. This move marked a deviation from Tanzania’s history of promoting family planning. In his diatribe against birth control users, Magufuli called those who use family planning methods “lazy,” claiming that “they do not want to work hard to feed a large family.” The core of the president’s directive is his belief that the suspension will benefit the Tanzanian economy. In response to the suspension, Ahmad Makuwani, director of reproductive and child health in the ministry, denied the president gave the order to pull the advertisements, CNN reports. He said the president's comments sparked the "momentum" to revisit family planning policies in the country, and elaborated that they “are reviewing these [outdated] adverts.”

The move against family planning represents what appears to be an emerging trend in the region. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has also expressed his belief that population growth can lead to a boon to Africa and global markets. President Magufuli hopes to redirect the $10 million earmarked for family planning in 2019 to pay for education, health care and other social programs. After the launch of free primary and secondary education, he said in the Independent: "Women can now throw away their contraceptives. Education is now free.”

The recent developments in Tanzania came as a surprise to many, as Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere, urged citizens to “put emphasis on caring for children and the ability to look after them properly, rather than thinking only about the numbers.”

Furthermore, Tanzania ratified the Maputo Protocol—an African charter of women's rights which guarantees the right of women to control their fertility and choose any method of contraception. Despite these commitments and the nearly universal government support for family planning programs, only a third of women in Tanzania use family planning, with access most limited in rural areas. Hence, the average Tanzanian woman has five children, double the global average.

The implications of Magufuli’s statements on the country’s global reputation is dire as Amnesty International denounced the stance as an attack on the rights of Tanzanian women. He country is now seen as violating several agreements signed in the past, including the Maputo Protocol and the International Conference on Population and Development. An estimated 214 million women in developing countries are at risk of unintended pregnancy because of an unmet need for family planning.

Tanzania’s population has grown from around 10 million in 1961 to almost 60 million; 49 percent live on less than $2 (£1.50) a day. On the continent, the United Nations has documented that high fertility can exacerbate poverty and strain resource-strapped governments’ ability to provide public services like education.