The rapid and sustained increase in the number of young people in the global south is one of today’s most significant demographic trends. Around 90 percent of young people reside in developing countries. By 2030 Africa is projected to have as many youth as East Asia and by 2050 could also exceed the youth population in South Asia. Young people make up approximately 30 percent of the total population in African countries, and this is increasing fast. Growing numbers of young people entail a process of demographic change within societies; 'rejuvenation' in a literal sense. Thus, in 2005, 76 percent of the Zambian population were under 30 years of age, with those between 20 and 29 years accounting for a mere 18 percent. Whereas some expert commentators are pessimistic about the prospects for economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa, youth bulges are recognised by many as a window of opportunity. They are seen to potentially offer a demographic dividend: where a larger workforce with fewer dependents could generate strong economic growth. Yet, experiences to date are mixed: while in East Asia, the policy and institutional environment facilitated the harnessing of the demographic dividend to achieve strong growth, similar demographic dynamics in Latin America failed to yield better economic outcomes.
Future Agricultures Working Paper No. 25, August 2011, 16 pp.