Can Africa harness the Demographic Dividend?
Yes, but much more needs to be done…
The Demographic Dividend is the economic benefit arising from a significant increase in the ratio of working-aged adults relative to young dependents. When birth rates decline significantly, the age structure shifts in favor of more working-aged adults, which can help accelerate economic growth through increased productivity, greater household savings, and lower costs for basic social services provided to children.
For Africa to harness the Demographic Dividend, governments and stakeholders must:
- 1.Make a conscious decision that the status quo is not acceptable and not sustainable, and mobilize the people to act.
- 2.Ensure universal access to family planning and other SRH and general public health services and general empowerment of women, which will facilitate voluntary fertility decline and enhance women’s participation in economic activities
- 3.Ensure universal access to quality and labor-market oriented education focused on developing innovation and economic skills, with particular focus on secondary and higher levels and closing all gender and related inequities.
- 4.Optimize the role of urbanization in development and enhance rural development and modernization of agriculture
- 5.Adopt economic policies and reforms that help develop industries of comparative advantage to ensure creation of secure jobs and livelihoods, which will enhance savings and investments
- 6.Improve governance and accountable use of public resources, including laws that prevent exploitative use of Africa’s natural resourcesby foreign investors and local companies
- 7.Adopt inclusive and people-centered development - the most important resource for development is human capital and not minerals or size of armies – invest in people!
- 8.Enhance local technical capacity in research, documentation and operationalization of Africa’s promising and success stories to inform scale-up and closure of the policy-implementation gaps
Caution on the Demographic Dividend and ICPD Beyond 2014: Harnessing the demographic dividend is however not the silver bullet solution to Africa’s development challenges. It’s a bonus for governments to know what they should do to develop their countries and people, when you start from a high fertility state
Is talking about population and the Demographic Dividend incompatible with the ICPD Program of Action?
1. NO – as long as governments and all stakeholders preserve the right of couples to decide freely and without coercion when they want to have children and how many children to have, and support those who want to have fewer children do so.
2. Demographic Dividend reinforces ICPD Program of Action and MDGs - integrated development that focuses on developing quality human capital, job creation and economic security, empowering women and preserving sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Dr. Zulu made these remarks on Sept 30, 2013 at the African Regional Population and Development Beyond 2014 conference held at UNECA in Addis Ababa from Sept 30-Oct 4, 2013. His presentation can be found here: Challenges and Opportunities for Harnessing the Demographic Dividend in Africa Presentation at ICPD Beyond2014 Experts Meeting 30-09-2013