Extra TVUN

African Presidents Discuss Potential “Demographic Dividend” in the Sahel

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 22 2014 (IPS) - Presidents from three Sahelian nations met Monday at the United Nations to discuss what may prove to be the only upbeat topic of the week at the General Assembly.

The subject of their meeting was the vast potential for economic growth in the Sahel over the coming decades due to a phenomenon known as a “Demographic Dividend.”

The concept can be explained as such: in the transition from an agrarian to an industrialised economy, it is common to see fertility rates falling, which in turn will lead to a labour force that grows faster than the population that is dependent upon it.

Essentially, the age structure of a country changes as it transitions from high to low birth and death rates.

The strong labour force can then engender powerful economic improvement, as occurred in Southeast Asia several decades ago. Critically however, in order to be realised, the demographic dividend requires strong investment in young people.

If policy is enacted appropriately, demographics can have a positive impact on per capita growth.

Thailand has recently emerged as an economic powerhouse in Southeast Asia, in part due to exploiting the potential of its demographic dividend. In 1960, more than 40% of the population were under age of 15.

Then mortality rates declined, and it became more usual to have smaller families. By the 1990’s, women had around 2 children each on average. Population growth had slowed.

With more workers, alongside fewer young people to support, the country experienced powerful economic growth. Thailand is currently dominated by working age adults.

Speaking to IPS, UNFPA’s senior advisor on Population and Economics Michael Herrmann said, “Economic and social policy have to go together, not just one or the other. It is important that girls benefit from education, and voluntary family planning.

These are the two of the most important factors in lowering fertility levels. Also ensuring a decline in child mortality.”

“Looking at the countries in North Africa, they are in a position to reap the demographic dividend. In addition to these (social policies allowing lower birth rates), the countries have to have the right economic policies in place to create jobs.”

Heads of state Idriss Déby from Chad, Alassane Ouattara from Côte d’Ivoire and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger expressed similar sentiments at the U.N. today. President Ouattara said, “The health and education of young girls is at the heart of the process.”

Republish | | Print |

Related Tags