Investing in Africa’s children now is best hope to reap demographic dividend
An unprecedented projected increase in Africa’s child population size provides policymakers with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to craft a child-focused investment strategy that enables the continent, and the world, to reap the benefits of Africa’s demographic transition, UNICEF said in a report issued today.
According to the Generation 2030/Africa Report, high fertility rates and rising numbers of women of reproductive age mean that over the next 35 years, almost two billion babies will be born in Africa; the continent’s population will double in size; and its under-18 population will increase by two-thirds to reach almost a billion children.
Among the report’s most important findings is a massive shift in the world’s child population towards Africa. Projections indicate that by 2050, around 40 per cent of all births, and about 40 per cent of all children, will be in Africa, up from about 10 per cent in 1950.
“This report must be a catalyst for global, regional and national dialogue on Africa’s children,” said Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “By investing in children now – in their health, education and protection – Africa could realize the economic benefits experienced previously in other regions and countries that have undergone similar demographic shifts.”
While child survival rates have improved across Africa, the continent still accounts for about half of child mortality globally, and the proportion could rise to around 70 per cent by 2050. The report notes that three in 10 African children live in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, and that almost 60 per cent of Africans could be living in cities by 2050. The report calls for special attention for Nigeria, which already has the greatest number of births in the continent, and will account for almost one in 10 births globally by 2050.
Equity-based programming and policy for children will help determine whether African children can transform the continent and break vicious cycles of poverty and inequality, said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
“However, if investment in Africa’s children is not prioritized, the continent will not be able to take full advantage of its demographic transition in the coming decades. Without equitable and inclusive policies, the pace of population growth could potentially undermine attempts to eradicate poverty and increase disparities.”
Generation 2030/Africa calls specifically for investment in expanding access to reproductive health services and efforts to empower girls and keep them in school. National development plans must adapt to prepare for demographic shifts, notably through stronger civil registration and vital statistics systems. “The seismic demographic shifts that Africa’s child population will experience are among the most important questions facing the continent, and indeed vital issues for the world,” the report notes.
Additional Key Facts from Generation 2030/Africa Report:
Global population projections indicate that by mid-century, Africa will be home to:
• Around 41 per cent of all the world’s births
• 40 per cent of all global under-fives
• 37 per cent of all children under-18
• 35 per cent of all adolescents.
The future of humanity is increasingly African:
• Today, 16 among 100 of the world’s inhabitants are African
• Based on current trends, within 35 years, 25 in 100 people will be African
• This will continue to rise to almost 40 in 100 people by the end of the century.
Africa also has the world’s highest child dependency ratio:
• 73 children under age 15 per 100 persons of working age in 2015
• This is close to double the global average.
Continuous urbanization will lead to the majority of Africa’s people living in cities in less than 25 years:
• In 2015, 40 per cent of Africa's population lives in cities. By the late 2030s, more than half of Africa’s population will live in urban areas.
While child survival has improved in Africa:
• One in every eleven children born still dies before their fifth birthday, a rate 14 times greater than the average in high-income countries.
• The continent also currently accounts for more than 50 per cent of the world’s child deaths.
Notes to editors:
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