Africa’s population is expected to peak at 1.6 billion by 2030–nearly 70% of which will be working age. The number of youth in Africa will increase by 42% over this period. This youth bulge will no doubt change the economic landscape of the continent. Harnessing this potential into a positive force for development through investments in health, empowerment, education and employment is the greatest challenge of the next 15 years. If successful, African nations will be able to reap significant dividends from this demographic change–known as the demographic dividend.
The Demographic Dividend framework is already having a significant impact through the integration of a variety of strategies and interventions that leads to improved health, increased investments in education and skills development, tailoring economic and governance policies, increased opportunities and investment in entrepreneurship and employment, and meeting family planning needs. Investments also provide impoverished, disenfranchised and unemployed youth with alternatives to migration and discourage extremism.
Health and the Demographic Dividend
Good health remains a key to reducing youth vulnerability, improving workforce productivity and creating an environment for youth to realize their full potential. Smart investments in key areas like sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) including family planning will have an outsized impact on accelerating the demographic change and driving economic growth. Studies have demonstrated that if just 10% more girls go to school, average GDP increases by 3% and when barriers to work are reduced for women productivity increases by 25%.
However, across Africa, barriers limiting young people’s access to SRHR information and services persist–particularly for young girls.
The Role of the Private Sector
The private sector can play an important role in: accelerating progress and removing barriers for women and girls to access SRHR services by helping to generate demand; reinforcing commodity availability and optimizing supply chains; training health workers; advocating for local and national policy; and developing and co-funding innovative financial mechanisms to attract new donors. These interventions ultimately benefit business as they engender a more robust economic environment, provide opportunities for investment in future employees and customers, and reduce systematic risk and volatility.
GBCHealth is teaming up with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to encourage smart investments in health, empowerment, education and employment to reduce vulnerability and support young people to reach their full potential. As discussed during the 72nd UN General Assembly at a meeting hosted by His Excellency Prof. Alpha Conde, President of Guinea and Chairperson of the African Union, we strive to achieve the following goals:
- Establishing a space for the private sector to advocate for policies and action that promote, support and expand the demographic dividend agenda;
- Creating awareness, commitment and action within the private sector on health issues critical to realizing the demographic dividend; and
- Providing direct avenues for the private sector to partner to improve SRHR outcomes through integrated programs.
On the sidelines of the 2019 mid-year African Union (AU) Summit, GBCHealth along with companies and other private sector organizations, political leaders, and bilateral and multilateral partners participated in the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) Resource Mobilization Roundtable, themed around “Investing in Women’s Empowerment and Human Capital as a Development Strategy for Growth.” Click here to find the presentation that supplemented the event.
The Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project, launched in November 2015, is designed to accelerate the demographic transition, trigger the demographic dividend and reduce gender inequalities in the Sahel region.
It aims to increase demand for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and nutritional health (RNCH) products and services by promoting social and behavioral change, including the abandonment of socio-cultural practices harmful to the expression of adolescent girls’ potential, and the empowerment of women and girls; and to strengthen regional capacities.
Key goals include improving the supply of reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and nutritional health commodities and skilled personnel, and to strengthen advocacy, high-level policy dialogue and capacities for policy development and project implementation.
The program is supported by the World Bank, UNFPA WCARO and the West African Health Organization (WAHO).
On June 28, 2020, the World Bank approved additional funding of US$376 million to support the implementation of Phase 2 of the SWEDD Project, bringing their overall support to $680 million to strengthen human capital and drive development in the Sahel through the empowerment of women.
The SWEDD project originally covered seven countries in West and Central Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad). Other countries, such as Guinea and Cameroon joined the SWEDD project as part of Phase 2.
GBCHealth is looking to engage with private sector champions who are interested in supporting this work. We are soliciting your participation in roundtables with other leaders and champions; in partnerships to replicate, expand, scale projects; and with new ideas to address challenges in product and service delivery, capacity building and knowledge.
For more information contact: