6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

Africa in Transition | Investing in Youth for Economic Prosperity

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Webcast Recap

Africa is at a crossroads—and which road its leaders take will shape the lives of billions of people, not only in Africa but also beyond its borders. Often overlooked, population trends play a significant role in Sub-Saharan Africa’s chances for prosperity. Between 15 and 20 million young people are expected to join the African workforce every year for the next three decades. Investing in the health and education of these young people, and providing opportunities for employment, will be essential to ensuring a positive future marked by economic prosperity and stability in the region.

In this discussion, experts from the region discussed impactful investments that country leaders can make to empower their youth

Selected Quotes


Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue

“African countries are not in the middle of one transition. They are in the midst of several transitions. All of these transitions are an opportunity for prosperity, an opportunity for growth, an opportunity to build human capital. But at the same time, all of these transitions also have potential for divergence… So the challenge is therefore to build prosperity but to do it for all. And so in order to do this, especially as far as building human capital, we have to move away from thinking about education and human capital in a piecemeal fashion... but rather think about the entire system together.”

“If you take the top 10 countries that are most unequal, 7 of these countries are in Africa. This is not something that many people recognize… Worse, these inequalities stand to get even worse in the future… Throughout Africa, virtually with no exception, this pattern in which you have the top quantile of the income of the wealth of distribution that has way fewer babies than the bottom quantile. And so you have a compounding of income inequality and demographic inequality that makes inequality among children even worse than the kind of inequality that you find in the previous generation.”

Unami Jeremiah

“We want to see more women serving in parliament. We want to see them being supported to run for political office because we know that a lot of the times, people talk about the glass ceiling and how it is very difficult to break through. I think glass is easy to break, for one, and I think we need to stop talking about the glass ceiling and maybe start talking about a concrete wall because that is what women are experiencing today.”

“I believe that young people have a voice and a power to change things. And my dream is to see, you know, not only in Botswana but also in Africa where what you say would not be used against you. And when people really say ‘we are for young people,’ they mean it instead of just using the concept of youth and empowerment to get leverage, you know, to have money or certain connections… I am yet to see spaces where young people are not separated from everybody else, where we’re just together just as people, as professionals, as experts within our different fields as leaders.”     

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka

“We are able to train them [community health workers] to start giving family planning injections, which has now become a national policy in Uganda. It’s really important that they do something like that because when they go to the hospital, which is normally about 20 miles and they have to walk, they get there and people are sick, they wont focus on women who just want to get the family planning injection, so they go back home and conceive. Now we’ve started training community health workers to give injections in their homes, the family planning rate went up significantly. “

“To the donors, we want to say that integrating health care and management of wildlife is very important to contribute to conservation and sustainable development. And to the Uganda wildlife authority, we want to get them to get their community to integrate conservation outreach within working with community health workers to spread the conservation outreach. With the ministry of health, we want their village health teams to also promote conservation.”

"The continent is moving, it wasnt like it was before. The role of women is really becoming more and more recognized in society, and I think it just needs to keep going. I think we have made even bigger strides than some developed countries, I have to say, in some areas, as far as women empowerment goes. So, I think we should be hopeful about the future about that.” 

Musimbi Kanyoro

“The second stage [of demographic transition] we usually speak about is when we have early and expanding population growth, and this is very much characterized by high birthrate, falling death rate, and the biggest driver here, is when there is a decrease in child mortality…. Historically, this has always been due to either increase in medicine, sanitation, nutrition, and other things support people to survive. Sustaining these services usually begins to lead into a period of potential population growth and several other byproducts that could come by that potential population growth.” 

“A majority of those [developing African countries] that have progressed their work in the area of health and population- like if we take Ethiopia for example, which has done quite a lot in this area– usually have done so by increasing access to family planning, to health, to inclusion of women, to health systems and several other factors that are being used today.”

“The area that is most often missing is the political presence of women, there aren’t enough women in government governance. We always of course use Rwanda as a great example of more than 50%, but it’s not enough for us to just quote Rwanda. We have a women president in Ethiopia, it’s not enough. We had one in Liberia, it’s not enough. That is an area that needs to be increased, when women are in leadership positions you see other areas impacted as well.” 


The Wilson Center’s Africa in Transition series, co-sponsored by the Population Institute, focuses on how often overlooked population trends—fertility, maternal mortality, migration, urbanization—shape sub-Saharan Africa’s chances for prosperity, health, and security.

Join the conversation on Twitter by following @NewSecurityBeat and @Wilson_MHI using the hashtag #AfricainTransition. You can also find related coverage on our blog at NewSecurityBeat.org.

Photo Source: unsplash.com/ Photo credit: Doug Linstedt


04-16-2019 Africa in Transition