African governments make efforts to harness the demographic dividend
29 July 2014
L-R: Dr. Kisamba-Mugerwa (Chairperson of the Uganda National Planning Authority), H.E Yoweri K. Museveni (President of the Republic of Uganda) and Dr. Jotham Musinguzi (Regional Director, Partners in Population and Development - Africa Regional Office) at the launch of Uganda's demographic dividend report on July 28, 2014 in Kampala, Uganda.

In July 2014, the Ugandan government launched a report outlining its blueprint for harnessing the dividend, whereas the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments deliberated results of studies that explored the countries’ opportunities for harnessing the demographic dividend.

Various African governments, including Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, are beginning to make efforts that will steer them towards harnessing the demographic dividend. AFIDEP is centrally involved in these efforts, specifically providing the research evidence that is guiding governments’ strategies for harnessing the demographic dividend. Through rigorous modelling and scenario building, AFIDEP is demonstrating to African governments the potential economic gains they can make if they invest boldly in reducing fertility, improving health and education, and creating jobs. Our initial analyses have focused on Uganda and Tanzania, where we are currently working with research and government agencies to model and share the critical evidence with top government officials in order to guide governments in making investments that will enable them to harness the demographic dividend.

President Museveni launches the Uganda demographic dividend report

H.E. President Yoweri Museveni launched the report Harnessing the Demographic Dividend: Accelerating Socioeconomic Transformation in Uganda, during Uganda’s National Family Planning conference in Kampala held July 28-30, 2014. The report, which was commissioned by Uganda’s National Planning Authority (NPA) and developed by various stakeholders led by AFIDEP, outlines the policy options the country needs to take to harness the demographic dividend.

In his remarks, the President singled out family planning as a critical ingredient for the country’s development efforts saying, “Family planning is good for the health of the child and the mother, for the wellbeing of the family, and the whole country “¦It’s about holistic development that starts with the realisation that having too many children is not good for development.”

Embracing the report’s proposed policy decisions that would enable Uganda to achieve a demographic dividend, President Museveni said that he was happy that the population management discourse was finally focusing on how countries like Uganda can take advantage of its population dynamics to accelerate socioeconomic transformation, rather than the narrow focus on controlling population growth. He noted that the core aspect of these efforts in Uganda will be a focus on reducing the high child dependency burden, enhancing economic reforms and job creation, and investing in human capital development in the way that Malaysia had done between 1960 and 2010.

“In order for [our] big population to be advantageous like in India, China and Brazil, we [also] need to invest in education, health, infrastructure development and job creation. That is why I am happy that the issue [on family planning] is now being looked at from the demographic dividend perspective”¦,” he emphasized. “”¦If all [we] do is control the population and reduce fertility without looking at the other factors, [we] won’t go far as a country.”

AFIDEP led the development of the report, working closely with local experts from Makerere University, policymakers from Uganda’s National Planning Authority, and development partners from UNFPA. The findings from the report show that Uganda can harness a sizeable demographic dividend if it adopts policies and priority investments aimed at creating a globally competitive economy that would accelerate economic growth and job creation on one hand, and accelerate reduction in fertility through voluntary and rights-based interventions and education, on the other hand. If simultaneous investments are made in family planning, education, health and economic reforms, the per capita GDP will increase from the current US$ 506 to US$ 8,821, in 2050, a near achievement of Vision 2040 target, and the country will earn a demographic dividend of US$ 3,483.

This kind of top-level political leadership for the demographic dividend efforts as demonstrated by Uganda is critical in ensuring that countries prioritise and operationalise the policy and programme decisions they make in order to harness the demographic dividend.

Tanzania deliberates opportunities for harnessing the demographic dividend

On July 25, 2014, AFIDEP experts led the deliberation of the findings of a study report on Tanzania’s opportunities for harnessing the demographic dividend with senior government officials. The report entitled Prospects and Challenges for Harnessing the Demographic Dividend in Tanzania, was produced by AFIDEP in liaison with local experts from the University of Dar es Salaam and sponsored by Pathfinder International.

Citing the report, Dr. Eliya Zulu, AFIDEP’s Executive Director, said that given Tanzania’s high population growth momentum due to high fertility, the country is guaranteed of having a large population. Thus, even if Tanzania’s fertility rate declined to 2.1 by 2040, the country’s population will still increase to around 180 million by 2100. Noting that more than half of Tanzania’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, Dr. Zulu posed the question, “Will these urban areas be engines of economic growth or poverty hubs?” He called on the Tanzanian government to take advantage of its youthful population by investing in education, family planning, empowerment of women, job creation and infrastructure in order to achieve the set development goals.

Emphasizing this message, Dr. Joel Silas of the University of Dar es Salaam said, “If we simultaneously invest in economic as well human development, the population age structure will shift to have more working age people.” He singled out the important role of family planning saying, “Family planning plays a big role in capital formation as reduction in fertility will result in increased savings, which can then be invested in the economy.” Dr. Joel indicated that according to the study, Tanzania could earn a demographic dividend of US$3,147 by 2015 if the country invested in both economic sectors (job creation, infrastructure and industrialisation) and social sectors (education, health, family planning and empowerment of women).

Speaking at the meeting, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Finance Mr. Mwigulu Nchemba, acknowledged that a change in age structure to more working age people compared to dependants was vital for Tanzania’s economic growth. He said, “All development strategies talk of poverty reduction but with such a high population growth rate, there is no doubt that we will not achieve the development envisaged.” He went on to say that this is the right time for Tanzania to take the right path in creating more jobs for its youth and planning a better future for its children.

Reiterating this message, Prof Rutasitara, Deputy Executive Secretary in the President’s Office Planning Commission said, “We should not only want the [population] numbers, but these [population] numbers should also be healthy, well-educated and more productive.”

A participant at the meeting cautioned that the focus on job creation should not be on creating casual jobs, but jobs that will improve the lives of the youth. Another participant advised the Planning Commission to coordinate the plans of the different sectors so that the country can achieve common development goals.

The meeting, which was held at the Protea Courtyard Sea View Hotel, Dar es Salaam, was also attended by senior representatives from various non-governmental organisations and development agencies.

Kenya too discusses opportunities for harnessing the demographic dividend

On July 15, 2014, government and non-government stakeholders in Kenya convened in Nairobi to deliberate the results of a study that explored the opportunities for Kenya to harness the demographic dividend based on the USAID-funded Health Policy Project’s DemDiv Model.

Presenting the modeling results and their implications, Hon. Rachael Nyamai, Chairperson of the Committee on Health in Kenya’s National Assembly, said that the results showed that Kenya’s average income (per capita GDP) would increase from the current level of US$907 to US$6,693 by 2050 if the country’s development efforts are focused exclusively on economic reforms and ignore education and family planning. However, if the country concurrently invests in all these sectors, the average income will rise to US$11,288, giving a demographic dividend of US$4,595.

Hon. Nyamai noted that the achievement of a demographic dividend is not ‘automatic.’ Rather this is a window of opportunity that a country must earn by making deliberate, timely and concurrent investments in family planning, education, job creation and governance. To create this window of opportunity, Hon. Nyamai noted that Kenya should increase access to family planning services by addressing the high incidence of stock-outs of family planning commodities. In addition, the government must invest in quality education to ensure the working-age population is skilled, and reform Kenya’s economy to ensure that it creates enough jobs for the big labour force that it will have. With fewer children to take care of and a higher income, families will be able to save more money, invest more in education and healthcare for their children, and the quality of life will improve.

Speaking at the meeting, Kenya’s Economic Planning Secretary, Mr. Stephen Wainaina indicated that Kenya cannot achieve the socioeconomic transformation envisaged in Vision 2030 if the country does not empower and take advantage of its youthful population. “We need to see how the youth can be agents of development,” he said. He went on to indicate that Kenya needs to reform its economy in order to create enough quality jobs, which is critical for achieving a good quality of life for its citizens and avert socioeconomic upheaval as witnessed in the ‘Arab Spring.’ He concluded by saying, “Planners need to wake up. Policymakers must act. We need to craft wise policies and make smart investments for Kenya to benefit from the demographic dividend and achieve our Vision 2030 development goals.”

The forum was convened by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) and attracted senior government officials from a cross-range of ministries including Devolution and Planning, Health, Labour, Education, Environment, and representatives from development agencies, the civil society and academia.

AFIDEP is a member of the NCPD-led Demographic Dividend Technical Working Group that produced the demographic dividend modeling results for Kenya, and is charting the way forward in guiding further analysis and exploration of policy options that Kenya should adopt in order to harness the demographic dividend. Further dissemination of the modeling results will be made to County government officials.

Evidently, the AFIDEP-led twin studies in Uganda and Tanzania, and the one in Kenya, show that African countries can harness a sizeable demographic dividend if they put the right policies in place and make bold investments in family planning, education, job creation and women empowerment.

See related story here