Higher female literacy is a reliable predictor of lower fertility and improved prosperity.
In a previous article, we highlighted a clear connection in sub-Saharan Africa between a country’s total fertility rate (TFR = average number of children per woman) and its young female literacy rate. The data showed that higher literacy may set off a chain reaction that results progressively in lower infant mortality, improved health for women, and lower fertility. While literacy rises to 90%, fertility falls gradually. Above 90%, it falls precipitously.
The Wharton Africa Business Forum took place in Philadelphia on November 3-5, 2017. Present were the Finance Minister of Nigeria, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines and other business leaders (notably from lead sponsors McKinsey & Company and the Boston Consulting Group) and educators. The event was attended by hundreds of participants including Wharton faculty, students and alumni, African investors and entrepreneurs, members of the African diaspora and many others who have an interest in Africa.
These are our notes from the event. They are not intended to be comprehensive.
First, there was a tremendous amount of energy and optimism surrounding Africa developments. There were a palpable sense that Africa’s moment is coming and an urgency that it should not be squandered. These sentiments are validated by our analysis of African demographics that show a coming decline in the dependency ratio and an accompanying increase in the odds of realizing some demographic dividend. However, fertility rates remain too elevated and are not falling fast enough to deliver the massive dividend that was seen in China, the US and Europe in recent decades. Read more
This article first appeared at Foreign Affairs.
How countries hit the demographic sweet spot.
Demographics are among the most important influences on a country’s overall economic performance, but compared with other contributors, such as the quality of governance or institutions, their impact is underappreciated. Demographic factors, such as the age structure of a population, can determine whether a given economy will grow or stagnate to an even greater extent than can more obvious causes such as government policy.
One of the most consequential aspects of demographics as they relate to the economy is a phenomenon known as the “demographic dividend,” which refers to the boost to economic growth that occurs when a decline in total fertility, and subsequent entry of women into the work force, increases the number of workers (and thus decreases the number of dependents) relative to the total population. The demographic dividend has contributed to some of the greatest success stories of the twentieth century, and countries’ ability to understand and capture this dividend will continue to shape their economic prospects well into the future. Continue reading at Foreign Affairs >>>
It is morally right that every child should be given the best chance to survive, eat well, stay healthy, and receive an education. Now we also know that it is among the best investments we can make. Healthy, well-educated kids grow into productive adults, capable of providing a better future for their own children, creating a virtuous circle that can help build a better, more prosperous world. Bjorn Lomborg, Copenhagen Consensus.
In coming years, the global economy is going to need all the help that it can get. All countries of the West face a severe demographic challenge from the twin effect of an aging population and a large inflow of foreign migrants. Technology and innovation will continue to be powerful drivers of the economy but they will only partially offset the sluggish aggregate demand seen in richer countries. Read more
We all heard that “demography is destiny”. But how many of us truly believe it? If demography was destiny, the world would look very different today. The two demographic giants China and India would be uncontested economic and military powers. The United States would be a regional power struggling to keep up. Larger European nations such as Britain, France and Germany would barely register on the economic map, while smaller ones such as Switzerland and Finland would be invisible. Nigeria and DR Congo would be African powerhouses. Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines would be the shining stars of their continents. Read more
Changing demographics and the commodities crash have slowed down the development of poorer countries.
Perhaps it all started with a turn in China’s demographics. Demand growth for commodities has declined sharply from recent years and has resulted in a crash of global prices. Copper is down 54% from its post 2008 peak and down 25% this year alone. Crude oil is down 67% and 39% in the same time spans. In addition to softer demand, prices were negatively impacted by jumps in supply, most notably from shale energy producers in the United States. Read more
The experience of China provides a useful policy template for countries with booming populations in south and southeast Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa. The Chinese boom showed that a growing working-age population combined with a declining fertility ratio can result in a large demographic dividend if certain conditions are met. As noted in this recent post, two important drivers of lower fertility are an increase in female literacy and a decline in child mortality. Read more
Large declines in fertility will depend on raising female literacy above 80%.
Every few years, the United Nations Population Division releases demographic projections for the entire world and for every country, region and continent. Although the UN’s database is the most used source on demographics, the data is not equally reliable for all countries.
Countries in the developed world conduct regular censuses and produce detailed numbers that are considered reliable. Less developed countries conduct censuses on an irregular basis or are completely unable to conduct them and have instead to rely on demographic sampling. In the poorest countries of the world, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, censuses are infrequent or nonexistent and even sampling can be irregular and unreliable. Read more
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.”
From ALLAFRICA.COM: http://allafrica.com/stories/201210020326.html
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.