In Summary
  • The youth need to be empowered, be better educated and have improved access to health services.

  • Ethiopia and Kenya have made progress in realising free education and healthcare.

  • However, investments have tended to concentrate on one phase, to the detriment of the other.

Let’s start with the obvious: The African Union was sketched during the first congress of independent African states, and drawn out as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), on May 25, 1963.

Back then, the combined population of all countries in Africa was slightly over 300 million; 56 years later, the continent has added a billion more people, majority of whom are youth.

PICASSO-LIKE IMAGES

In the eastern Africa region, although Ethiopia is the most populous of the countries, the highest known rate for a national population arising from the conjunction of a very high birth rate and a quite low death rate was experienced in Kenya during the 1980s. Then, the natural increase of the population was approximated 4.1 per cent per annum.

The continent will, by 2050, have the largest number of working-age persons. Projections indicate that the population growth of African countries will increase significantly; in comparison, the working age population of some of the developed countries in Asia and Europe will decrease.

For a long time, the term population growth, when used in the same sentence with the African continent, conjured Picasso-like images, characterised with unemployment, insecurity, uncontrolled birth rates and increased numbers of rural-urban migrations, among other negatively loaded terms.

In converse, research shows, population increase can positively provide a point to anchor the quest for a demographic dividend and reap benefits.

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