Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has told women in the East African nation to stop taking birth control pills because the country needs more people, according to local media reports.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative for Tanzania, Jacqueline Mahon, was present when Magufuli made his comments, reports said.
CNN has reached out to the UNFPA for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
“I have traveled to Europe and I have seen the effects of birth control. In some countries they are now struggling with declining population. They have no labor force,” the Citizen newspaper quoted him as saying.
Tanzania’s population is around 53 million people, and 70% of them living on less than $2 a day, according to a 2015 World Bank report.
“You have cattle. You are big farmers. You can feed your children. Why then resort to birth control?” he asked. “This is my opinion, I see no reason to control births in Tanzania,” Magufuli, who has two children, said.
Opposition MP Cecil Mwambe criticized the President’s comments, saying they were against the country’s health policy.
President Magufuli is known as ‘The Bulldozer’ for his tough stance against corruption and his hardline policies, which include denying education to schoolgirls who become pregnant.