Africa’s demographic dividend is an opportunity: development cooperation stakeholders share views

Rome - Wednesday 23 May, at the Aldo Moro Hall in the Farnesina headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, featured the international seminar "Migration and Demographic Dividend: Mobility of Sub-Saharan Africa". The event was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), with the support of our Agency and the collaboration of the Italian Association for Women’s Development (AIDOS).

The seminar was attended by Italian and international experts who illustrated social and economic data, trends and policies relating to the challenges and opportunities of the demographic dividend in sub-Saharan Africa, and on its links with migration dynamics. The event was opened by the Director General of Development Cooperation, Giorgio Marrapodi: "The goal is to unlock the social and economic potential of a population with the highest percentage of young people ever seen in history. It is imperative that we focus our action, our resources and our commitment to putting these young people in a position to fully express their human, social and economic potential, for their benefit and for that of their communities."

In his speech, Emilio Ciarlo, AICS communication manager, referred to the objectives of the Agenda 2030 in Africa: "To reach the SDGs, we need substantial investments in the health and education sectors, which are highly crucial areas that allow countries in demographic transition to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the so-called" demographic dividend." The Italian Cooperation system will continue to financially support the work of international agencies in these sectors. However - continued Ciarlo - our cooperation has only medium-size funding, and to make our contribution more effective we have to concentrate on areas where we can effectively bring added value. We do this successfully on issues such as the fight against non-communicable diseases, thanks to our commitment to basic health and disability. One area in which we could assume a more marked leadership is that of collecting and analysing statistical data, a prerequisite for correctly defining any policy. With just over 300 million euros a year, we can make a decisive contribution to helping partner countries in this sector, a significant move towards the data revolution advocated in the 2030 Agenda, which has a relatively modest overall cost: 340 million euros are equal to the value of two footballers like Messi and Neymar!”

The Agency's efforts to qualify cooperation initiatives which lead to job creation was also highlighted, since African economies are suffering from "GDP growth without jobs" - as highlighted by the latest outlook from the African Bank of development - in particular in rural development and in the agro-industry area, sectors in which Italy has a strong vocation.

“Given the very high percentage of young people in the region - said Arthur Erken, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnership of UNFPA - most of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa are ready to valorise their demographic dividend. But to do this, young Africans need to make decisions about their own reproductive intentions. In the last four years - added Erken - UNFPA programs have helped over 17 million teenagers to access sexual and reproductive health services."

UN Special Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake concluded that "young people today are the most mobile generation in history, constantly looking for jobs and opportunities that transcend national borders. We need to emphasise a stronger and more convinced recognition of the vital role that young people play in achieving sustainable development, and to the positive contributions they make, both to their original and host communities. "
With a current population of roughly 1.2 billion, it is estimated that Africa’s population will reach 1.7 billion by 2030, and 3 billion by 2063. The seminar highlighted the need for an integrated, multi-sector and multi-partner approach, in order to address the root causes of forced migration and interconnected issues, so that sub-Saharan Africa can successfully transform the challenge of the demographic dividend into a positive opportunity.