Kenyan Government Commits to Make “Smart” Investments to Harness the Demographic Dividend
15 July 2014
Author: Diana Warira
Economic Planning Secretary, Mr. Stephen Wainaina speaking at the launch of the DemDiv Model. Photo: Diana Warira

“”¦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”¦”

These were the words of Economic Planning Secretary, Mr. Stephen Wainaina at the launch of results exploring opportunities for Kenya to harness the demographic dividend based on the USAID Funded Health Policy Project’s DemDiv Model on July 15th, 2014. 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, Labor, Education, Environment, and representatives from development agencies, the civil society and academia.

In his remarks at the event, Mr. 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 the nature of socioeconomic upheaval witnessed in the ‘Arab Spring.’

The launch of this report comes at a time when global conversations on the role of population change in sustainable development are on an all time high having celebrated the World Population Day a week ago, whose theme for 2014 is ‘Investing in the Youth.’

Hon. Rachael Nyamai, chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health presented the modeling results and discussed their implications for Kenya’s development. The modeling results show that Kenya’s average income (per capita GDP) would increase from the current level of $907 to $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 would rise to $11,288, giving a demographic dividend of $4,595.

As echoed by various speakers at the event, Hon Nyamai noted that the achievement of a demographic dividend is not ‘automatic.’ She said 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. The window of opportunity is created by rapid decline in birth rates that changes the age structure of the population from one with many dependent children and fewer workers to one with more workers than dependent children.

But how does Kenya create the window of opportunity and achieve a decline in fertility from the current level of 4.6 births per woman to around 2 births? Hon. Nyamai noted that Kenya should increase access to family planning services in order to wipe out the high incidence of stock-outs of family planning commodities at various outlets. How about accelerating economic growth and job creation? The country must invest in quality education to ensure the working population is skilled, and reform its economy to ensure that it creates enough jobs for the big labor 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 health care for their children, and the quality of life will improve.

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.

Participants follow proceedings at the launch, while Hon. Rachael Nyamai (right) presents the DemDiv Model results for Kenya to the audience.

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