Africa: Why Investing in Africa’s Youthful Population Can No Longer Wait

BUNMI MAKINWA, Director of the United Nations Population Fund – Africa, argues that “we need to recognise that the demographic dividend is no guarantee, and neither will it occur by itself. This is an opportunity that must be harnessed now for great gains in the future.”


The African Union’s ministers in charge of youth have underscored the need to harness the potential of the youthful population on the continent for its transformation. At the end of their two-day Conference in Addis Abba (12-14 Sept 2012), they tasked the AU Commission and the Economic Commission for Africa to identify policy recommendations for African governments in order to adequately address the challenges of young people.

This is a welcome development, and it’s heart-warming news.

Africa’s youth bulge

The notion of a demographic transition resulting in a youth bulge in Africa has been evident in the last 10 years. But it is gratifying that this is beginning to receive some attention among various policy makers on the continent. Ultimately, it should be the central focus of development strategy at the regional and national levels.

Currently, Africa is the most youthful continent in the world. At least 35 per cent of its more than one billion population is between the ages of 15 and 35. Experts estimate this could double by 2045.

In 2010 young people aged 15-24 years accounted for slightly more than 20 per cent of the total African population. In East and Southern Africa specifically, those aged between 10 and 24 years make up 32 per cent of the population of 125 million.