Last week, the Economist examined a key transition underway in Africa, one that positions the continent to capitalize on a “demographic dividend” of lengthening lifespans, smaller family sizes, and greater economic opportunities as it races headfirst toward urbanization.
Like other regions, many African cities are growing richer, moving from high to low fertility, and increasing the size of their working-age population. As a result,
“a fast-growing, economically active population provides the initial impetus to industrial production; then a supply of new workers coming from villages can, if handled properly, enable a country to become more productive. China and East Asia are the models. On some calculations, demography accounted for about a third of East Asia’s phenomenal growth over the past 30 years.”
The Economist points out that the continent’s struggle to provide for its people, political violence, and the adverse impact of disease and other threats to families distinguish its development from some Asia and Latin American societies.
And although the Economist may need a refresher on the risks facing large Asian population centers after their booming, urbanized economies have turned, it describes accurately the potentially transformative role that innovation and technology can play in averting or managing the threats to development:
“Africa needs a green revolution; more efficient cities; more female education; honest governments; better economic policies. Without those things, Africa will not reap its demographic dividend. But without the transition that Africa has started upon, the continent’s chances of achieving those good things would be even lower than they are.”
For more, see The baby bonanza.