Vocational training is one of the key investment areas for African governments to ensure the potential of youth is harnessed for Africa's development. Photo: John Hogg/ World Bank

As African leaders converge for the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, development experts are following this closely. The official opening ceremony on 30th January 2017 will feature, among other things, the launch of the AU 2017 theme, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth.”

Over the last few years, AFIDEP has been instrumental in providing technical support to African governments to assess their potential to harness the demographic dividend, to evaluate the obstacles to the achievement of the dividend, and to develop actionable policy recommendations to be incorporated in short, medium and long-term national development strategies in order to harness the dividend. The demographic dividend presents a one-time opportunity to accelerate socio-economic development and achieve long-term development aspirations.

In partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and national ministries of finance and development planning, AFIDEP has conducted demographic dividend studies in Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Uganda, Swaziland, Namibia, Senegal and Zambia. At a broader level, AFIDEP has contributed its expertise at various regional and international fora deliberating on identifying specific investments in family planning, education, health, economic reforms and governance, that would facilitate optimal demographic dividends for the continent and individual countries.

During the launch of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2015, African Heads of State and Government led by Malawi President H.E. Peter Arthur Mutharika, held a high level meeting which saw the African leaders commit to championing the demographic dividend as a catalyst for Africa’s development. The communiqué the leaders signed also rallied efforts to see the African Union adopt the demographic dividend as the theme for a future session.

The 2017 Summit therefore is a great win for population and development stakeholders who have been at the forefront rallying for the demographic dividend and investments in youth to be on Africa’s development agenda.

This Summit, which will also see the election of a new Chairperson of the AU, runs from 30th to 31st January 2017. The Summit is taking place at the African Union Headquarters, Nelson Mandela Plenary Conference Hall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Summit also sets the pace for the main Summit taking place in July 2017.

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