After Ghana had its independence on 6th March, 1957, the focus of our first President was to make Ghana an industrialized nation in Africa, but this dream had a challenge to address. That was a matching human capital to support this vision. This was because our population by then was relatively small. At that stage we needed to expand our population to equate the industrial revolution. Well, that was a great time to be a Ghanaian, with a rapidly growing economy, increasing number of health facilities, schools and lots of job opportunities.

Sixty years down the line and the coin has changed. Africa’s population is now described as youthful, being made up of about 60% of the total population being below the age of 25. Ghana is of no exception. According to the 2010 population census, it is estimated that about 58.3 percent of the total population of Ghana is below the age of 25, and 38% of Ghana’s population is under age 15.What it means is that in history this is the largest ever number of people for this particular age group and still counting. According to McKinsey report   titled “Africa at Work: Job creation and inclusive growth” it concluded that by 2035, Africa’s working population will be larger than that of any nation, including China or India. This phenomenon will bring along economic transformation that will boost the economies of Ghana and Africa as a whole. This is what experts describe as Demographic dividend.

One may ask, what is this Demographic dividend that has been at the centre of recent summits of African Heads of states all about? Demographic dividend simply refers to accelerated economic growth that begins with changes in the age structure of a country’s population. This is usually accompanied with low birth and mortality rates. What it means is that in the next 20 to 30 years this youthful population are going to be within the working population and be productive which will be translated to accelerated economic growth.

But interestingly, if this large young population is actually going to be productive for us to see that accelerated economic growth that we expect, then a lot more needs to be done to turn them into skilled working population. Investments into the health and education of this young generation should be a major priority of all stakeholders. While it is widely acknowledged that such a large youth population, if turned into a skilled working population, can bring huge benefits to economies, at the same time if left unsupported and without jobs, a frustrated youth could turn to violence, some report warns. So the question is, what are the structures our governments are putting in place to ensure we achieve this demographic dividend in the next 30 years?

Ghana came up with the national youth policy in 2010, which served as a guide to government and all other stakeholders to include the youth in all developmental processes in order to ensure that they are not left out. It also provided a conceptual framework that will see to it that adequate investments are made on their health which includes access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, education, skills development and growth. Well, all these steps are efforts that need to be recognized, yet these policies, in majority of times remain only as paper documents that are not adhered to. Many young people continuously face challenges accessing basic health services such family planning services, they are unable to access affordable and quality education, unable to have their skills developed, etc.

As a country with a large youthful population and also seeking to achieve demographic divided, we need to seriously invest in the youth through the provision of the needed environment and creation of opportunities that will ensure that young people grow to realize their full potential that will eventually translate into sustainable development. Additional investments in reproductive health and family planning among the youth are needed for fertility levels to continue to decline to ensure a decline in fertility and dependency levels.

 

Source: Jonathan Brew