- Published on Wednesday, 09 December 2015 16:01
As we move towards implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, unleashing the potential and power of Africa’s youth should be a critical component of the continent’s developmental strategies. For decades, many African countries have come up with a variety of ‘development’ plans. But often missing in these documents, is how best to harness the potential of the youthful population for the transformation of the continent.
Young people are central to the realization of the demographic dividend. It is therefore important to protect and fulfill the rights of adolescents and youth to accurate information, comprehensive sexuality education, and health services for sexual and reproductive well-being and lifelong health, to ensure a productive and competitive labour force.
Demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a decline in a country's birth and death rates and the subsequent change in the age structure of the population. With fewer births each year, a country's young dependent population declines in relation to the working-age population. With fewer people to support, a country has a window of opportunity for rapid economic growth if the right social and economic policies are developed and investments made.
For Ghana to benefit from the demographic dividend over the next 20 years, we need to redouble efforts to accelerate the decline in fertility whilst we lower mortality levels through revitalizing existing health and family planning programmes.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the key issues that must be addressed for Ghana to reap the demographic dividends are child health (including neonatal care), nutrition, care of the elderly population and family planning.
The Ghana statistical service, the media, the National Population Council and several stakeholders with support from the United Nations Populations fund have embarked on initiatives to educate and create awareness on the Benefits of Demographic Dividend to the Development of the country. Despite all these efforts, government has to do more by committing resources towards some specific sectors that could contribute to Achieving demographic Dividend in Ghana.
According to the UNFPA Over 85% of currently procured contraceptives in Ghana are from three major donors - UNFPA, USAID and DFID, and, more recently, WAHO with just 15% from government.
Reaping the demographic dividend in Ghana will require investments in job creation, health including sexual and reproductive health and family planning, education and skill and development, which would lead to increasing per capita income.
Due to low dependency ratio, individuals and families will be able to make savings, which translate into investment and boost economic growth. This is how East Asian countries (Asian Tigers) were able to capitalize on their demographic window during the period 1965 and 1990.
The impact of such a demographic transition on economic growth is no longer questionable, it is simply a fact.
But this transformation requires that appropriate policies, strategies, programs and projects are in place to ensure that a demographic dividend can be reaped from the youth bulge.
Without concerted action, Ghana could instead face a backlash from the growing numbers of disgruntled and unemployed youth that will emerge.
In the worst-case scenario, such a demographic transition could translate into an army of unemployed youth and significantly increase social risks and tensions.
The demographic dividend in many developing countries remains a possibility, but for the process to begin, countries must give high priority to substantially lowering fertility and child mortality.
Donor and UN agencies such as the United Nations Population fund are leading the campaign on harnessing the potential demographic dividend, however to ensure sustainable development government needs to walk the talk by allocating budget to priority areas.
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