Let’s talk D.D.: Development Days, and in my case, the Demographic Dividend.  


The Development Days conference took place in Brussels over the 7th and 8th of June this year, and was attended by some 45,000 participants from all over the world to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspired new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges within three themes: Investing in People and Planet, Investing in Prosperity, and Investing in Peace and Partnerships.

Now that we know about the conference, I am sure you want to know from a specialist in youth engagement such as myself noted meaningful youth participation in the space, right?  Well… I sure did!  The conference invited 16 youth representatives to participate in European Development Days high-level panels, where they shared their ideas and experiences and participated in global debate with key development stakeholders and policymakers.  However, the numbers of diverse demographic engagement always require a closer look when the figures emerge.

Given the highly-publicized attendance of 45,000 participants at the conference, I was expecting to see a majority of young people.  Based on our population index in our respective countries, it is evident that that young people do make up the majority population and there is a need to harness their potential and capabilities.  This brings us to the term ‘demographic dividend’, which states that when the proportion of working people in the population is high, more people have the potential to contribute to growth of the economy… this, is turn, means that young people have the potential to bolster this demographic dividend and create real impact!

I happened to be one of the young leaders that had an opportunity to participate in a panel discussion organized be Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) during the EDD, where we discussed the subject of investing in Africa’s youth to harness the demographic dividend.  Being a Youth leader for the African Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN), and a representative of the Adolescent and Youth Constituency under the Global Partnership on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, it was expected of me to say the obvious, which is: “Invest in Young People and you will harness the demographic dividend!”

Well, I chose not to say the obvious.  In fact, I actually got down to the real core issues on what needs to be done to harness the demographic dividend.

We cannot single out these issues and merely say health or education alone will solve our problems but true multi-sectoral partnerships will allow us to jointly cover the four key development pillars (education, health, employment and good governance) under the African Union Investing in Youth Demographic Dividend Roadmap.  Bringing together stakeholders in each of the key areas means they can plan together, work together, and ensure the right investment is delivered in the right areas at the right time.  The demographic dividend is about adopting a holistic approach to achieve the development aims for young people in Africa, but young people must drive this momentum, and be given the opportunity and autonomy to do so.

We have seen many commitments, policies and declarations being made, but real investment can only happen when political and government leaders put all key development areas in action.  The donor communities also have a role to play and ensure that we do not mainly impose project priority areas and allow communities to develop integrated programs that will allow them to embrace the change they are seeking.

So this session definitely got us talking about the D.D. and we came to a consensus that it takes more than a commitment to get things going… it takes ACTION, COLLABORATIVE WORK and MAKING THE RIGHT INVESTMENTS.

And they can start with ensuring greater access of young people to change-making spaces.


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