Experts urge African countries to take advantage of demographic dividend

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By Bola Olajuwon, Assistant Editor/Head Foreign Affairs and Development Agencies

EMINENT experts have urged African countries to “take full advantage of the region’s demographic dividend by especially investing in youth”.
The call was made at the first edition of Scientific Conference on National Transfer Accounts (NTA-Africa) co-organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), through its sub-regional office for West Africa.

The conference was organised in Senegal with the Regional Centre of Excellence in Generational Economics (CREG) in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), partner universities and development partners.

With the central theme of “Demographic Dynamics and Sustainable Development: The Contribution of NTAs to Agenda 2063”, the meeting aimed to promote the NTA method, its applications and extensions as well as the political dialogue on demographic dynamics for development.

The conference took place in a context where remarkable economic growth efforts observed over the past two decades have been relatively compromised by unprecedented population growth in many African countries.

A strategy for taking population issues into account could therefore make it possible to take advantage of demographic trends, to generate productivity gains and improve the quality of life of the population. It is with this rationale that the Sub-Regional Office of the United Nations Economic Commission for West Africa (ECA/SRO-WA) set up a specialised Centre in Demographic Dynamics for Development (DDD), the goal of which, among others, is to promote the capture of the benefits of the demographic dividend.

In his address at the opening of the conference, the Cabinet Director of the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Cooperation of Senegal, Mr. Aliou Ndiaye, said: “Since 2015, Senegal has invested heavily in the process of achieving the demographic dividend”. This commitment has grown considerably since the adoption of the African Union Conference Declaration in January 2016, inviting African countries to “take full advantage of the demographic dividend by investing in youth”.

“Our country is implementing measures and policies that, through phase II of the Emerging Senegal Plan (2019-2023), will contribute to the creation of a more favourable environment enabling it to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend,” continued the Cabinet Director of the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Cooperation of Senegal.

ECA Director for West Africa Bakary Dosso declared that three motivations explain the presence of the commission as a partner of the conference.

“The first is the fundamental mission of our organisation, which is to produce ideas and actions to support Africa in its development efforts. The second reason is the universal commitment to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Efforts to achieve these goals guide the actions of the ECA, and beyond it, the entire United Nations System. Lastly, our relationship with the NTA network stems from our close collaboration with the CREG for the development of the Centre’s Strategic Plan, upstream of the operationalisation of the DDD Centre. This momentum has been reinforced by the convergence of the views of the two entities to develop and consolidate a partnership network of Institutions and Structures engaged in capturing the benefits of the demographic dividend,” explained Bakary Dosso.

“The ECOWAS zone represents 17% of the surface area and 30% of the population of Africa (estimated at 1.3 billion inhabitants in 2019). It is the most populous sub-region, and is home to the most populous country on the continent, namely Nigeria with 200 million inhabitants in 2019,” said the ECA Director for West Africa.

“We are pleased to enhance the scope of the NTA Conference by involving it in a political dialogue between researchers and political authorities, with the participation of senior officials and experts from the Ministries in charge of the Economy and Planning, National Observatories on Population, Statistical Institutes and sub-regional organisations,” declared Dosso.

Coordinator of the CREG Abdelatif Dramani explained: “This conference is an important opportunity that brings together several authorities, policy-makers and practitioners from Africa and the world who are in charge of population and development issues, with the aim of exchanging and discussing the continent’s demo-economic challenges.”