The African Demographic Dividend or Doom?

Decades of high fertility with falling child mortality has resulted in a very youthful age structure for the African continent. An estimated 60% were under 25 years old in 2015 compared to 43% and 41% for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia respectively. The prospects of Africa’s young population as the engine for continent’s economic transformation has captured the imagination of leaders in the region culminating in the AU theme of the year 2017: Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investments in Youth. Is the optimism misplaced? What we have not heard much of is the cost of inaction. What will happen to the continent if there are no major investments to lower fertility, to address high unemployment especially among youth, and if investments in health, education remain at current levels? Another dimension of interest rests on the relative socioeconomic and development success of a small number of Africa’s Small Island Developing States (SIDs) and small states (< 3 million people). These nations have unique demographic, economic, and social patterns but population scientists and economists do not study them as much as the larger countries. What are the continental lessons that African countries could draw from these countries to achieve their ambitions to benefit from the demographic dividend?
This sub-theme therefore invites sessions that seek to:
a) Illuminate the conditions necessary for African countries to harness the dividend, highlighting also the cost of inaction
b) Showcase lessons from countries that have benefitted from the demographic transition, including the SIDs, and countries that have not benefitted from the phenomenon
c) Highlight the role of gender in accelerating the demographic dividend
d) Explore the prospects for the second demographic dividend drawing from lessons from the SIDs, North and Southern Africa.

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