DEMOGRAPHERS, researchers and policymakers will converge in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday for the 7th International African Population Conference to deliberate on harnessing the demographic dividend for socioeconomic development of the continent.
The demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a rapid decline in a country’s fertility and subsequent change in the population age structure.
The five-day conference on the theme, “Demographic dividend in Africa: Prospect, opportunities and challenges” is being jointly organised by the Union of African Population Studies (UPSA) and the government of South Africa with support from development partners.
A conference paper made available to The Ghanaian Times explained that with fewer births each year, a country’s working age population grows larger in relations to the young dependent population.
“With more people in the labour force and fewer young people to support, a country’s working age can exploit the window of opportunity for rapid economic growth if the right social and economic investments and policies are made in health, education, governance and the economy,” said.
Speaking about of the conference, the Vice President of UPSA, Professor Samuel Nii Arday Codjoe, said the forum will present evidence-based research to influence policy adding, “we need to do something about the critical mass of young people selling on the street.”
Prof Codjoe who is the Director of the Regional Institute of Population Studies of the University of Ghana said: “big youthful population” of Ghana needed to be taken good care of in terms of good investment in their education to better position themselves to take over rather than allowing them to sell on the street without skills.”
He cited the case of United States of America that has become what it is today because they took advantage of the “baby boom” that had opened up to them and invested in them and they are reaping the benefits today.
Demographers and researchers in Ghana have been advocating and raising public awareness on the need to take advantage of the demographic dividend that is opening up to the country considering the fact that the working population (15-64) is growing larger.
They are of the view that the demographic dividend, which lasts for about 30 years, does not come automatically and that the right policies must be put in place to harness the skills of the labour force through skills training, vocational training and economic empowerment for the girl child to achieve economic gains.
By Salifu Abdul-Rahaman