The Kenya Forum | Africa's demographic dividend: harnessing a youthful population - The Kenya Forum

September 11, 2023

Summary

More than 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, making it the youngest continent on the planet. This youth bulge presents both immense challenges and unprecedented opportunities.

More by Winnie Kabintie

Africa’s demographic dividend: harnessing a youthful population

Africa’s demographic dividend: harnessing a youthful population

Intergenerational conversations are key to empowering youth

A look at the dynamic and promising future of Africa through the lens of its vibrant youth

Africa, often referred to as the “youngest continent,” is experiencing a demographic shift that is poised to reshape not only its future but also the global landscape. With a youthful population exceeding 1.3 billion, Africa’s youth is emerging as a powerful force, driving economic growth, innovation, and social change across the continent.

The conversation surrounding this development in Africa’s demography is often centered on understanding the outstanding energy of youth, creativity, and determination. The hope is that these factors will drive Africa toward a brighter, more prosperous tomorrow.

So what exactly is this great potential of Africa’s youth and the transformative impact they are having on their communities and the world?

Africa’s youthful population: the demographic dividend

The term “demographic dividend” refers to the economic boost that can result from a population with a large proportion of working-age individuals relative to dependents (children and the elderly). When this balance is struck, a nation or region can experience a surge in economic productivity, innovation, and overall growth

More than 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, making it the youngest continent on the planet. This youth bulge presents both immense challenges and unprecedented opportunities.

Africa’s youth are vibrant and diverse group of individuals with ambitions, dreams, and the determination to drive change.

The continent’s potential workforce is expected to double by 2050. This presents a unique window of opportunity for Africa to catapult itself into the global economic arena.

However, to harness this demographic dividend, African nations must invest wisely in education, healthcare, job creation, and infrastructure.

Harnessing entrepreneurial spirit

One of the most remarkable aspects of Africa’s youth is their entrepreneurial spirit. Across the continent, young Africans are starting businesses, creating innovative solutions to local problems, and contributing to economic growth. From tech startups in Nairobi’s Silicon Savannah to agribusiness ventures in rural Ghana, young Africans are embracing entrepreneurship as a means to not only secure their own futures but also to uplift their communities.

Tech-savvy innovators

The digital revolution has empowered Africa’s youth with access to information, education, and global markets like never before. This has given rise to a wave of tech-savvy innovators who are harnessing the power of technology to address local challenges. Mobile banking, e-commerce platforms, and healthcare apps are just a few examples of how African youth are driving technological advancement.

Advocates for change

Africa’s youth is not only focused on economic prosperity but is also at the forefront of social and political change. The “youthquake” witnessed in various African nations in recent years, including the #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa and the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria, demonstrates their commitment to social justice, human rights, and good governance.

Educational ambitions

Investments in education are key to unlocking Africa’s potential, and the youth are actively pursuing higher education both within and outside the continent. Many of those who leave the continent for their education are returning to contribute to their home countries’ development.

Global collaboration

Africa’s youth is increasingly engaging with the global community. Young African leaders are participating in international forums, collaborating on research projects, and networking with their peers worldwide.

This global perspective is helping them bring fresh ideas and innovative solutions to the challenges facing the continent.

Once such powerful global movements where African youth are leading change is in the Wikimedia Movement; which works towards advancing knowlege equity. Africa’s youth are working towards shrinking content gaps on digital platfroms such as encyclopedia, key among other things ensuring that information about our people, art, culture and languages are preserved online.

Challenges and opportunities

While Africa’s youth represents a significant opportunity for growth and development, there are also formidable challenges, including unemployment, decent pay, access to quality education, and healthcare.

Addressing these issues will require concerted efforts from governments, businesses, and civil society to invest in education, create job opportunities, and support the entrepreneurial endeavors of Africa’s youth.

However, when properly managed, this demographic shift offers a multitude of opportunities:

Economic Growth: A youthful workforce can boost economic growth as more people contribute to the labor force. With the right investments in education and skill development, Africa can become a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.
Increased Consumer Market: A growing middle-class population creates a substantial consumer market for goods and services, both domestically and internationally. This can attract foreign investments and drive economic diversification.
Innovation and Technology: The youth’s fresh perspectives and adaptability make them well-suited for embracing technological advancements. Africa can position itself as a leader in technology and innovation on the global stage.
Global Influence: A more youthful population can enhance Africa’s influence in global affairs, contributing to a more balanced international system.

By being intentional about investing and harnessing the demographic dividend, Africa can harness the power of its youth to become a global leader in innovation, economic growth, and social progress.

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