7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Investing in Africa’s youth to harness the demographic dividend

Investing in Africa’s youth to harness the demographic dividend

Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 13:30 to 14:45

Key points

  • Asian and Latin American countries have been the main beneficiaries of the demographic dividend over the last four decades. Now it is Africa’s turn.
  • Integrated development is key to harnessing the demographic dividend.
  • Employment, education, skills management, health and well-being, and good governance are the four wheels of development.
  • There is a time limit to making the most of the demographic dividend.
  • Focusing solely on one investment pillar for before considering the other areas will not help Africa’s youth.


If you were asked what your main priority is when it comes to Africa’s youth, what would you choose? Education? Health? Governance? Mortality and fertility? If you were then asked about how to sequence the investment to harness the continent’s demographic dividend, what would you choose as your entry point?

These are the questions that occupy the minds of those in the development and donor communities as they try to direct young Africans towards a brighter social and economic future.

For development practitioners in Africa, it is not a case of prioritising one thing over another, but of building an integrated development. That means creating a holistic approach that considers the issues not insolation, but in a combined and complimentary way.

They believe there are four key development pillars that must be considered together:

  • Employment,
  • Education and skills management,
  • Health and well-being, and
  • Good governance.

They are four pillars that must work together in a synchronised fashion. You cannot look at one without the others if you want to harness the demographic dividend.

Push harder for an answer about priorities and, depending on who is speaking, individual concerns become apparent. EU leaders in development coordination might favour education, for example, because of its ability to empower young people, create opportunities and tackle gender inequality.

Those looking at African development policy might pick interventions that tackle child dependency. African youth networks might suggest governance as key. Without good structures and systems in place, funds could be managed badly, and the investment opportunities will be lost.

While some in the development community cite limited budgets as a reason to focus on single issues, youth networks believe that true multi-sectoral partnerships will allow them to cover the four key development pillars at the same time. Bringing together stakeholders in each of the key areas means they can plan together, work together, and ensure the right investment is delivered in the right areas at the right time.

The demographic dividend occurs when the proportion of working people in the population is high, meaning more people have the potential to contribute to growth of the economy. The countries of Asia and Latin America have been the main beneficiaries of the demographic dividend over the last 40 years. Now it is Africa’s turn.

The window of opportunity to make the most of the dividend is limited: it is estimated that the continent has just 40 years.

What is needed now is for development practitioners to find a way to help governments develop packages of intervention to support young people. If they don’t harness the demographic dividend now, there could be chaos. 


The demographic dividend is about adopting a holistic approach to achieve the development aims for young people in Africa. Focussing solely on one issue before considering other areas will not work.

Organised by

    Ute Lange
    Moderator, Trainer and Communication coach
    Tilman Nagel
    Host of the session - Head of Section, Education, TVET & Labour Markets
    Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit
    Tikhala Itaye
    President of Eastern and Southern African Region of AfriYAN
    African Youth and Adolescents Network
    Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu
    African Institute for Development Policy
    Margaret Agama-Anyetei
    Head of Division Health, Nutrition and Population
    African Union Commission
    Carla Montesi
    Director of the Directorate for Development Coordination - West and Central Africa
    European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
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