MOSES MAGADZA, Mahe, Seychelles
AFRICA will account for approximately 80 percent of the projected four billion increase in the global population by the year 2100, according to
the United Nations.
Africa’s population currently stands at about 1.2 billion. In east and southern Africa, adolescents and young people aged between 10 and 24 years represent nearly 33 percent of the total population. That population of young people is projected to double by the year 2050.
This can be an opportunity or a challenge, according to Frederick Okwayo, a Population Data Policy Advisor with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in east and southern Africa.
He said this to SADC PF Members of Parliament during a symposium at the beginning of the 41st plenary of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, which began in Seychelles last week.
The SADC PF organised the symposium to interrogate the theme: “Harnessing democratic dividend in Africa through Investment in Youth.” Mr Okwayo warned that the continent’s growing youthful population can pose a major challenge “if it is not properly invested in”.
He told the Members of Parliament drawn from 12 SADC Member States that Africa’s population will constitute 40 percent of the world’s population by the year 2100. In other parts of the world that include Europe, populations are not increasing. Mr Okwayo said as things stand, people aged below 25 years make up approximately 60 percent of the population in Africa.
“We have a resource which, when invested in, we can leverage.”
The African Union has declared 2017 the year for harnessing demographic dividend through investing in the youths. Accordingly, African Member States are reportedly trying to figure out how they can tap into the demographic dividend that young people present. Angling for the demographic dividend is being done through a variety of instruments that include Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) and Agenda 2063.
The demographic dividend refers to the economic benefit that can arise when a country has a relatively large proportion of working-age population due to declining fertility and mortality and when it effectively invests in their health, empowerment, education and employment through public action and private sector involvement.
“With timely, targeted and simultaneous investments at macro and micro levels, this shift can accelerate inclusive socio-economic development. Changing the age structure can produce a window of economic opportunity in countries undergoing a fertility decline.” Mr Okwayo said.
He explained that typically, demographic dividend starts when fertility and mortality decline.
“When fertility goes down, the population age structure changes so that there are more people in the working age group population. When that happens, the dependency ratio declines.”
He stressed that demographic dividend presents potential for economic growth.
“For it to become real, duty bearers who include Members of Parliament, development partners and the private sector need to make a lot of investments. The working age population has to be empowered, kept healthy, be educated and be highly skilled in an environment that offers decent jobs.”
Countries that have benefitted from the demographic dividend have done so through, also, increasing or expanding family planning commodities and services to change the population age structure. Such countries include those commonly referred to as the Asian Tigers.