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Investment in youth: A strategic Choice and a significant asset for sustainable growth in Africa

(LLCT) - Over the last few years, the concept of “Demographic Dividend” has gained strong momentum among African nations and African politicians and decision makers as an important means for boosting and accelerating economic and social development. Africa’s youth represents its significant asset for sustainable growth if properly harnessed. The time to harness the demographic dividend and start investing in human resource, particularly youth is now.



The AU Agenda 2063 has made several calls for investing in youth and women so as to realize its vision of “an Africa where development is people driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth”. The AU has also recognized the demographic dividend as a key element in the people centered framework of the Common African Position on the Post 2015 Development Agenda. This resulted in the inclusion of the demographic dividend in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This was, indeed, one of the key contributions of Africa to the 2030 Agenda.

Demographic Dividend: The Concept

Over the last few years, the concept of “Demographic Dividend” has gained strong momentum among African nations and African politicians and decision makers as an important means for boosting and accelerating economic and social development.

The demographic dividend is defined as “the economic benefit arising from a significant increase in the ratio of working age adults relative to young dependents that result from a significant decline in death and birth rates ». The change in age structure in Africa opens for a genuine opportunity to the demographic dividend that is initiated by a rapid decline in the average number of children that African women have.

Theoretically, a demographic transition characterized by an increase in the population’s working age is expected to lead to potential benefits.

Harnessing Demographic Dividend in Africa: Current situation

Africa’s youth represents its significant asset for sustainable growth if properly harnessed. Declines in infant mortality and longer life expectancy are contributing to an increase both in the overall population and, more importantly, in the share of the population at a working age.

Statistics indicate that Africa will account for 3.2 billion of the projected 4 billion increases in the global population by 2100. Africa's working age population, particularly the youth, rose by 2.1 billion over the same period. Furthermore, with mortality and fertility rates tumbling, Africa’s share of the world working age population is expected to increase from about 54% in 2010 to peak at about 64% in 2090.

At a time when most of the advanced economies face an ageing population, Africa’s population has more than 350 million young people aged 10-24 years. This population is projected to almost triple (906 million) by 2100.

These trends suggest that Africa stands to benefit from the rising share of Africa’s working age population and youthful age structure, which presents opportunities for accelerating rapid economic growth and development in the region, if properly harnessed. The 2016 Economic Report on Africa puts the growth rate of the continent at 3.7%, and although this masks higher performance in certain countries, economic growth has not been in areas that are labor intensive. For example, Africa spends about 30 billion US dollars importing processed foods every year and could create about 5 million jobs just by transforming natural minerals by 5%.

Africa is moving at a pace much slower than its potential due in great part to the untapped potential of its youth. The time to harness the demographic dividend and start investing in human resource, particularly youth is now.

Harnessing Demographic Dividend in Vietnam: Asian Success Story

In this regard, Africa has a lot to learn from the experience of Vietnam in harnessing the demographic dividend for economic and social growth. A set of important measures that include high stakes investments in youth are among the driving forces behind the economic successes of Vietnam.

During the past quarter century, Vietnam has emerged as one of Asia’s great success stories. It has transformed itself from a nation ravaged by war in the 1970s to an economy that, since 1986, has posted annual per capita growth of 5.3%. Vietnam has benefited from a program of internal modernization (DoiMoi), a transition from its agricultural base toward manufacturing and services, and a demographic dividend, which Vietnam has turned into a reality. In 1999, 34% of the population was between the ages of 5 and 19. As a result, 12 million joined the labor force in the subsequent decade. Between 2000 and 2010, the labor force expanded at a 2.8% annual rate, more than twice the rate of population growth, contributing about one-third to Vietnam’s overall growth. In the few coming years, the proportion of working age adults in Vietnam will peak at 70%, representing a significant demographic dividend.

Proportionally, the Vietnamese economy has been benefitting greatly from harnessing this demographic dividend, which offers a great opportunity for the economy to enhance its growth, and effectively contribute to approximated 15% of the economic growth of the country during the last five years. The robust rise in the share of working-age population has also contributed to Vietnam’s ability to double per capita GDP. An impressive performance given that it was achieved despite an international context marked by recessions and crisis.

Vietnam has also prospered through choosing to open more broadly the outside world, joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007 and forging strategic trade relations with many key partners such as Russia, China, EU and United States. These steps have helped to ensure that the economy is consistently ranked as one of the region’s most attractive destinations for foreign investors.

Harnessing the Potential of Young African People to Contribute to National Development: A strategic choice

African countries could aspire to follow the evolutionary path observed in Vietnam to harness the demographic dividend and investing young people to benefit in terms of social and economic development.

To achieve this, African countries will need to embark on sound economic policies and adopt comprehensive reforms and simultaneously invest in key pillar sectors namely: family planning, healthcare, education and economic reforms.  These investments are needed to speed up the demographic transition and improve the productivity of the workforce. Improvements in agricultural policies and urban planning are also essential to complement these investments.

Hence, Africa's demographic transition will contribute to boosting future economic growth, shared prosperity and make Africa a global player. Africa needs to capitalize on its working-age population, which is rising at a time when much of the rest of the world’s workforce is on the decline.

It is noteworthy that many countries across Africa are already putting in place measures and policies that would help create enabling environment to position them towards reaping the demographic dividend. The region has recorded some progress but much more remains to be done.

The Way Forward

Africa’s large young population is both a potential challenge and an opportunity for enhancing the continent’s socioeconomic transformation and development. If the continent does not invest in its youth welfare, the continent’s young population potentials will be wasted and the continent is likely to experience social difficulties by having too many young people who are not economically engaged. The continent’s development prospects can be hugely enhanced if smart investments are made to turn the large young population into quality human capital made of well educated, skilled, innovative, healthy and gainfully employed young people. Experiences from some Asian countries in this regard, namely Vietnam, can be of great benefit for African countries.

Africa’s potentials in terms of demographic dividend cannot be exploited in a once off approach, but rather in a south-south cooperation framework, favoring regional and bilateral collaboration between countries as a tool for shared sustainable development in Africa, through investment in the youth demographic dividend. In this context, many success stories are to be cited as the mega-project of gas pipeline, linking Nigeria and Morocco through West African countries, benefiting more than 350 million Africans, in terms of job creation for the youth and supplying local economies and enterprises with new opportunities for growth and expansion to new markets.

Another successful example harnessing the full potential of demographic dividend is the Southern African Development Community, «SADC », that succeeded, within the framework of South-South cooperation, in breaking the vicious circle of increasing poverty, under-development and marginalization that has characterized Africa for a very long time. SADC achieved sustained economic growth and sustainable development so that people in the region, especially young populations, have better living standards and employment opportunities, through regional integration built on democratic principles and equitable and sustainable development.

These initiatives, which are comprehensively African initiatives by African Nations is a proof that Africa holds the key to its own development through investing in its demographic dividend. Nevertheless, Vietnam offers a good model and a partner for African countries to enter into a genuine partnership with Africa, based on a common vision, mutual interest, and shared commitments toward the youth and toward the future.


1. Arti Khatri: “African Union ECHO 2017: Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”, December 20, 2013, website : https://www2.fundsforngos.org/youth-and-adolescents/african-union-echo-2017-harnessing-the-demographic-dividend-through-investments-in-youth/

2. Economic Commission for Africa, “Creating and Capitalizing on the Demographic Dividend for Africa”, 26, March 2013, website : https://gatesinstitute.org/sites/default/files/Issues%20Paper%20-%20Creating%20and%20Capitalizing%20on%20the%20Demographic%20Dividend%20for%20Africa_En.pdf

3. Abdelylah Lakssir, Population and Development Africa Regional Office: “Investing inYouth to harness the Demographic Dividend in Africa”, 24 October, 2014, website:https://www.rhsupplies.org/fileadmin/uploads/rhsc/General_Membership_Meetings/Mexico_2014/Presentations/Day


4. Collins Okonkwo: “OP-ED: Harnessing Africa’s Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth”, 14 February 2017, website: http://africannewspage.net/2017/02/op-ed-harnessing-africas-demographic-dividend-investment-youth-collins-okonkwo/

5. “Harnessing the demographic Dividend through investment in youth”, February 2017, website: https://d3japsmkk00rot.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/AU-2017-DD-ROADMAP-Final-ENG.pdf

6. Minh Thi Nguyen: “Dynamic Demographics and Economic Growth in Vietnam”, January 2008, website :www.researchgate.net/publication/4810220_Dynamic_Demographics_and_Economic_Growth_in_Vietnam

7. UNPAN Asia & Pacific:  “Viet Nam: Demographic Dividend Period – Time for VN to Become Dragon”, June 23, 2011, website : www.unpan.org/PublicAdministrationNews/tabid/115/mctl/ArticleView/ModuleID/1467/articleId/26770/default.aspx

8. ran Khanh: “Demographic Dividend and Its Economic Implications in Vietnam”, website : https://www.abebooks.com/Demographic-Dividend-Economic-Implications-Vietnam-Tran/10797699365/bd                                                        

H.E.Mr. Azzeddine FARHANE

                                      Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco in Vietnam

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