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Population Dynamics and the Demographic Dividend Potential of Eastern and Southern Africa: A Primer

Cummins, Matthew (2019): Population Dynamics and the Demographic Dividend Potential of Eastern and Southern Africa: A Primer.

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Abstract

This working paper provides an overview of demographic trends that are upending the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region and the potential to capitalize on the demographic dividend. The demographic dividend is the time-bound opportunity to catalyze economic growth and poverty reduction as the working age population expands due to falling birth and death rates. Using a variety of demographic variables, the paper describes the ongoing population boom in ESA alongside the move toward higher levels of savings and investment that can propel the production of more goods and services and hence greater income and opportunities. It then assesses the recent and likely trajectory of human capital in the region – a key determinant of the dividend – while also modelling an alternative policy path whereby governments immediately ensure that each newborn reaches their full physical and cognitive development while also completing secondary school. The paper concludes by highlighting the importance of greater and better investment in human capital sectors, which will determine how much of the remaining dividend can be salvaged, while also discussing how UNICEF and development partners can help.

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