“Overly Optimistic? The Pulse of Africa’s Changing Economies and Demography”
Tue, Nov 10. 11:00AM - 1:00PM
University of Nairobi - Kenya Science Campus University of Nairobi Karen, Kenya
Overly Optimistic? The Pulse on Africa’s Changing Economies and DemographyThe place of Africa in the world’s geopolitical and economic landscape was greatly diminished towards the end of the last century. At that time, it was taken for granted that countries in the African continent would struggle with stagnant economies, poor political leadership and long running conflicts. But as the new century started, a series of changes in leadership and a much stronger turn towards democratic governance has enervated the continent and led to a revision of the pessimistic outlook. As a result, it is now understood that individual African countries, such as Kenya and its neighbors have a good chance of making great contribution to people’s welfare. For Kenya too, the century began with a double problem of political and economic crisis that could have doomed its prospects for a long time. However, concurrent political and economic reforms raised the pace of growth at the same time as created a sense of possibilities. This has led to the realization that in addition to all else, Kenya has a great resource in its people and especially the abundance of a young and ambitious population. Thus Kenya and many sub-Saharan African countries are in the situation where there is young population whose ability to capture the moment and drive its growth will determine the growth trajectory of individual countries. There are solid advantages in having a growing population comprised entirely of young people. At the same time, this demographic reality comes with peculiar stresses to the present economy and bears policy challenges that are not always easy to solve. Among the main challenges to development borne by the existing governments in Africa are:• Ensuring better health and raising the life expectancy of citizens• Ensuring that the youth receive a competitive education• Ensuring economic growth that also expands opportunities for employment• Ensuring that people are secured in their property and livesLooking at these primary requirements it is clear that the pace of these achievements will depend a lot on the demographic reality of Kenya. For instance, the participation of the youth and Kenya’s professionals is necessary for economic growth and this in turn will open up more opportunities and provide resources to enable the provision of public services such as education and primary health services. Africa’s youth will become primary economic actors much earlier and for longer than is the case for their contemporaries in other parts of the world. This session will concentrate on answering these questions using the experience and ideas of a variety of youth in Kenya who are at the forefront of new ideas for making their societies much better. Among the questions that will be explored are:1. How can Kenya prepare itself to make the best of the demographic advantage of a youthful population?2. What are the new ideas that could inform youth and development policy?3. In what ways can Kenya improve the labour productivity of youth to raise their incomes?4. What are the business opportunities that arise from Africa’s development challenges?5. Besides their labour contribution, what are the ways in which the youth could play a greater role in Kenya’s and the regional economy?The two hour session will involve four panelists who will explore the questions in addition to giving remarks on their experiences.