Value of Africa’s demographic dividend


A 2014 report by International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Africa Rising Harnessing the Demographic Dividend prepared by Paulo Drummond, Vimal Thakoor, and Shu Yu revealed that Africa will account for 80 percent of the projected four billion increase in the global population by 2100. And if properly harnessed can translate into higher growth and yield a demographic dividend.

Population Reference Bureau a non-profit that specialises in research data also reaffirms Africa’s population predictions that by 2030, the continent’s youth will make up 42 percent of the world’s young people.

But this datum is invaluable to most policymakers who by now should be guiding the continent in answering the following questions: How does Africa benefit from the demographic dividend? And what must Africa do to take advantage of this resource?

The population dynamics present the continent an opportunity to take advantage of, but if not properly handled, there is an imminent time bomb which can translate to threats of social cohesiveness, as well as enormous migration in quest of opportunities elsewhere.

We have no choice but to build a robust demographic dividend by focusing on transforming our education and using technology.

Since education is the magic wand that we need to convert our youth into a demographic dividend for future markets, it’s time we start asking what type of education we need, which can make our young people work anywhere in the world.

In Kenya, for example, some parents have not embraced the recently introduced Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC). And are preferring foreign systems of education that will disenfranchise cohesion.

The advice of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire pops up when he says individuals and communities through reflection and action, can gain a critical awareness of their social reality.

At a time like this, the consciousness of our social reality is what might trigger indigenous creativity and innovation to solve local problems.

Studies have shown that while indigenous wisdom has always been the bedrock of knowledge, a majority of the African population has never used them to strengthen our education system.

This has created conflicting educational systems during the formative stages where learners have had long term implications on the socio-economic development of the country.

The other challenge is also the adoption of technology to skill-up young people which in the past has depended on technical and vocational education training (TVETs) for skills development. Even though the policy direction is great, the system still depends on the traditional methods.

This has made several young people go for online education. As a result, more than five million youths in Africa today work online.

Some of them have acquired invaluable technical knowledge to start their enterprises.

Many African countries are now forced to partner with online learning platforms to upskill the youth and provide them with online work. Platform-led upskilling such as Transformational Up-skilling (TU) and Caribou Digital are currently accelerating technology learning in Africa.

However, we need to go beyond online work and transfer skills that can augment local innovations.

A recent post by TU — Exploring how digital platforms are helping to fill skills gaps for African youth — noted that, platforms aren’t just teaching platform competency, they’re also teaching transferable skills like financial management training that might be a lifetime, portable, and helpful even outside the platform.

For Africa to reap its demographic dividends, education and technology will continue to gradually change the nature of how the workforce accesses jobs and transfer work options from informal to digital platforms. This will result in new revenue streams, increased stability, and formalisation of working conditions.

The change can create a demographic dividend working for the world with improved productivity and economic expansion.

Further, platforms are becoming an essential element of the education landscape. By delivering relevant, flexible, and affordable training programs they are effectively assisting in the creation of human capital that can be used in a variety of situations within an economy.

With the concept of traditional education radically changing during the COVID-19 pandemic, physical attending of classroom lectures is no longer the only learning option. Knowledge transfer too is also facilitated by technology, and this has made labour to be useful across the world.

However, many of the youths are still not familiar with the emerging opportunities. An enormous number of them are still stuck in past work practices where workers are expecting permanent and pensionable jobs.

But the future of work is beginning to shape up. And that we have to allay the fears of job losses due to automation to up-skill the population who can work anywhere in the world.