Nigerian colleagues with laptop talking in garden

Beyond the Headlines: As China and India Age, Young Africa Has Potential to Power Global Workforce

In this webinar, we examine data on the growth of sub-Saharan Africa’s working-age population and discuss its potential to power the global workforce.


Barbara Seligman, Senior Vice President of International Programs

Aïssata Fall, Africa Director


Marlene Lee, Associate Vice President of International Programs


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Speaker, Marlene Lee (PRB): Thank you, everyone, for joining us today for this public briefing. Beyond the Headlines, As China and India Age, Young Africa Has the Potential to Power the Global Workforce. I am Marlene Lee, Associate Vice President at the Population Reference Bureau and the webinar moderator today. Before our main event, let me give you a brief orientation to the webinar controls for presentations. All microphones but the speakers’ are muted. You will see on the bottom of your screen “Q&A.” You may click and enter questions about the webinar at any time. Please include your affiliation with your question. I will be monitoring the space. If you do not see “Q&A,” look for three dots and click on those, then the Q&A should appear.

For technical difficulties, please raise your hand electronically and Walker Irving will reach out to you to help resolve the issue. Any issues? Okay.

Diving right in again, welcome and thank you for joining us today at this public briefing. Beyond the Headlines, As China and India Age, Young Africa Has the Potential to Power the Global Workforce. Again, for those of you who just joined, I’m Marlene Lee, your moderator.

Let me briefly introduce our speakers and an outline of today’s session before our presentation begins. Our speakers today are Barbara Seligman. Barbara is Senior Vice President responsible for leading International Programs at PRB. She has advised development partners and governments in low- and middle-income countries on developing population and reproductive health policies for more than 30 years. Aïssata Fall is Africa Director and West and Central Africa Representative at PRB. She’s based in Dakar, Senegal. Aïssata has worked on policy dialogue in social protection, access to basic social services, and decentralization for international development agencies and African governments for more than 30 years.

For those of you not familiar with PRB, or Population Reference Bureau, we are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that harnesses the power of population data to inform and advance solutions to the most urgent challenges facing our world. We analyze and disseminate information so that it can be used to inform decisions that improve lives. As part of our work, we train researchers, journalists, advocates, and others around the world to use information in support of decision-making.

Now, without delay, we will move to our main event. Barbara Seligman will speak on projected changes in the global working age population over the next 30 years, focusing on China, India, and sub-Saharan Africa. Then Aïssata Fall will speak on measures African governments are taking to prepare for a demographic dividend. A moderated question and answer session will follow, and I thank you all for putting all this wonderful information about yourselves in the chat. Barbara, welcome.


Speaker, Barbara Seligman (PRB): Thank you very much, Marlene, and welcome to all of you. I’m really looking forward to our conversation today. I know that many of you are enthusiasts about population matters, and the last couple of months have been really exciting times because so much attention has focused on population issues, notably the fact that India has surpassed China as the most populous country in the world. One of the things that we’re going to focus on today are some of the notable demographic changes that are projected to occur over the next 30 years that are more overlooked, that are not talked about so much. And we appear to have had the good fortune to speak to a number of reporters who’ve been covering the India population story and to help them see some of these other changes. And we look forward to hearing from you and the discussion about some of your observations about all of this press coverage, about the changing composition of the global working-age population.

So, to start, while India is following China’s path to become the most populous country in the world, it’s also following China’s path to become an aged society. By the mid, er,, mid-2050s, India’s population 65 and older will double from its current level of 7% to 14%. It will take 26 years to experience that doubling. China, which just crossed that threshold, the 14% threshold, took 23 years to make that transition. So, India is falling behind China’s path to become an aged society and is doing so a little bit more gradually and with a lag of about 25 years.

Sub-Saharan African countries are already driving growth of the global working-age population, that is, the population between the ages of 15 and 64. While no single African country, of course, can match India in terms of its contribution to the growth of the global working-age population, those 50 or so countries together already account for a greater share of the growth in the global working-age population today than India. And as India and China’s contributions to the growth of the global working-age population decline, sub-Saharan Africa will continue to rise. And when we look at the picture at mid-century, we really see the dominance of sub-Saharan Africa in terms of its contribution to this productive age cohort. And last but not least, we find that it’s very important to look closely at young Africans when we talk about the future working-age population, the characteristics of those entrants to the working-age population, those who are 15 to 19 years old, are can be strikingly different from the characteristics of young Africans entering the working-age population as recently as 20 years ago and certainly compared to 30 or even 40 years ago.

So, let’s take a look at the aggregate numbers. And here what we’re showing is the total global working-age population, [ages] 15 to 64 from 1970 projected through 2050. And we’re looking at India, China, and the region of sub-Saharan Africa. Again, those 50 or so countries. We include the United States here for comparison and because a number of members of our audience are in the U.S., and it helps to show that the U.S. is sort of small fry when we’re talking about these numbers.

So, here in 2023, China continues to have to account for more members of the working-age population at this moment in time. Back in 2015, China crossed the threshold where its working-age population numbered 1 billion. India is going to cross that same threshold sometime later this decade, so between 2025 and 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa is going to cross that threshold another 15 years or so from now. So, between 2035 and 2040, by the time we get to the end of this decade, India will have a larger working-age population than China. By the time we get to mid-century, sub-Saharan Africa’s working-age population will be larger than India’s. These are the aggregate, the total numbers, but they help to set the stage.

Now let’s take a look at where the growth in the global working-age population is coming from. And again, here we have the same three countries plus the region of sub-Saharan Africa for comparison. So, if we look at China, China’s at the beginning of this century, it’s hard to believe. At the beginning of this century, China was, if not the largest one of, nearly the largest contributor to the growth of the global working-age population. But its contribution began to decline in the early 2000s. Now with India: India’s contribution to the growth of the global working-age population, it has has just peaked. And by the time we get to mid-century, India’s contribution to that growth is going to come to close to zero. And as I said, when we look at sub-Saharan Africa in 2023, we see that, collectively, those countries are already contributing a greater share of the growth in the global working-age population than India.

But the real story is what happens as we move out towards the mid-century mark. And in fact, by the time we get to 2050, if I were to write the headline for this slide, it would say today in 2050, Nigeria accounts for a quarter of the growth in the global working-age population. So, over a relatively short period of time, we’re going to see some pretty tremendous changes that maybe are not so appreciated as so much attention focuses on what’s happening between India and China. So, behind the growth of the working-age population, we have fertility that’s really what the driver is of this growth.

So, let’s take a few minutes to look closely at what’s happening with fertility, um, in India, China, and in sub-Saharan Africa. So, we see in China, fertility decline began in the in the [19]70s. It was accelerated. The steep drop in fertility was accelerated by the one-child policy. And really since 1990, fertility has been at replacement or below replacement levels. Now replacement fertility—2.1 children per woman—represents the fertility rate that will kind of keep a population stable.

Now, when we look at India, we see that fertility has declined much more gradually, according to the 2019-2021 Demographic and Health Survey. Fertility in India is 2.0, so just below replacement level. And that’s quite an accomplishment. India is a very diverse country with great diversity across its different states. One of the things that’s very interesting to observe is that the states that historically have had higher fertility have in recent years seen that fertility decline. Even the state of Bihar, India’s most populous, has a total fertility rate of 3. It’s higher, relatively higher. Fertility is offset by the fact that so many states in India have low replacement fertility rates or are quite close to replacement. We therefore are confident that as we move towards mid-century, India’s fertility rate will stabilize at a, at a place a little bit below replacement levels. Um, there’s been a lot of news coverage. Many of you are aware of efforts by China and other countries to try to encourage women to have children. And we don’t think that those efforts are really going to have much of an impact on these macro-level projections of fertility in China or, for that matter, in India.

Now, looking at sub-Saharan Africa, we’re seeing we project a steady fertility decline. But even by the time we get to 2050, we think that the fertility rate will still be above replacement, which means that the working-age population in sub-Saharan Africa will continue to grow as we move into the second half of the century. So, fertility rate is directly tied to the size of the working-age entrant population, those 15-to-19-year-olds. So, even as fertility declines, we have a bit of a lag before we start to see the decline in the age of that 15-to-19-year-old cohort. And you see that here in China. Where the decline in the 15-to-19-year-old population began around 2005, despite fertility reaching replacement levels earlier in India. We see that decline in the 15-to-19-year-old population cohort beginning around 2020, 2023, right around now. And in sub-Saharan Africa, we don’t see that decline because, as I said, our projections through mid-century show that fertility continues to stay above replacement level. So, what you see with the projected growth of the population cohort, those entrants, 15 to 19 years old, 19 years old, is they continue to grow significantly. And the sum of the extra growth that you’re seeing here is that even though fertility is trending downwards, we have, at least for the course of a generation, more and more women who are having children than ever before. So, it takes a little bit of time for the fertility, um, for those momentum effects to be captured.

So, let’s take a look at trends in the number of working-age entrants over this projection period. I think this is a really striking graph that I think maybe not so many people are aware of. Indeed, by the time we get to 2050, when we look at those new entrants into the workforce, we’re going to see India contributing what, some number that’s about, uh, 110 million, with sub-Saharan Africa producing or accounting for not quite twice that number. It’s a staggering difference and will have really important implications for the global working-age population.

Up until now, I have talked about sub-Saharan Africa as a region consisting of approximately 50 countries. I want to briefly look at the three African countries that are driving the growth in sub-Saharan Africa’s population. Those are the three most populous ones: Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (or the DRC), and Ethiopia. And as you see here, I think the principal takeaway is that at the beginning of this century, in 2000, Nigerians, Congolese, and Ethiopians accounted for a pretty small share of the working-age population. By the time we get to 2050—and in this case, we’re projecting out until 2065—it’s a very, very different story. Now, of course, other countries in sub-Saharan Africa together account for the difference that’s shown in gray [on the slide], but none of those other countries individually contributes as much as these three.

So, now let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of working-age populations from these countries that have been driving the growth of the global working-age population since the beginning of the of the 21st century. If we look at female literacy, it’s sort of a crude indicator of women’s status. We see that today, female literacy in China is virtually universal, and female literacy rates have been high for a long time. China really stands apart from the other countries in that regard. There’s some really good news here that, personally, was somewhat surprising to me was to just see how much progress the Democratic Republic of Congo has made in improving its female literacy rates to the point where they’re substantially higher than female literacy for in India.

And in India there’s been much coverage of the fact that the status of women in many Indian states lags significantly, and that has the potential to really mean that the sort of, the economic gains that are propelled through the demographic transition are not necessarily going to look like they did for China. And then we look at Nigeria and Ethiopia, which, you know, perform on this indicator more poorly than India. Remember here we are looking at ages 15 and over. That will be important when we come to our next slide.

If we take a look at an economic measure, and here we choose to look at gross national income per capita, again, China is in a category by itself, far wealthier than any of the other countries that we’re looking at. India and Nigeria are wealthier than the other two countries. I think it’s worth mentioning that the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s poorer countries. So, the composition of the working-age population, the countries from which the working-age population are coming—that will dominate the size of the, or the growth of the working-age population at mid-century—their characteristics are going to look different than they did at the beginning of this century and certainly before then.

Many of you who are in this audience are academics or students of population. And you know better than I how important it is to look beyond averages. And that averages can mask important trends, and they can mask real stories. And here again, we want to implore you to look at young Africans and to take a look at some of the changes that are happening in human capital formation, that is, in education, health, job experience among these young cohorts of Africans who are entering the working-age population today and in the foreseeable future. When we look at female literacy rates, yeah, Ethiopia didn’t look so good when we looked at the average for women [ages] 15 and over. But my goodness, look at the progress that’s taken place in female literacy in Ethiopia over the course of the last 20 years. Similar gains in DRC, also more modest gains in Nigeria.

But what we’re seeing are, we’re seeing is that the young Africans today really look different than they did even a generation ago in terms of their human capital. We see that with life expectancy, too. Ethiopia’s investments in health in particular are maybe known to many of you, and they really are sort of captured in what we see here as life expectancy gains at age 15. The story with Nigeria, you know, somebody’s going to ask a question about it. We’re still trying to figure out and have asked some people to see if they can help us understand what’s going on there.

And then finally, adolescent fertility, which signifies trends in early marriage investments or girls’ secondary school attendance and sort of speaks for a number of different indicators. And again, over the course of the last 30 years, staggering improvement in Ethiopia, really staggering drop in teen fertility rates, adolescent fertility rates, important declines in DRC and in Nigeria as well.

So, as we look ahead to the future of the global working-age labor force, let me just recap some of the things that we’ve talked about. The demographic dominance of the global working-age population has changed over time. Indeed, it’s changed over the century from China to India and soon to the sub-Saharan Africa region. As the United States, Europe, and other high-income countries age, they will need to look beyond their own populations to meet their economic and social needs, among which includes caring for ever-growing populations of older adults. Countries with young populations and relatively high fertility, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, such as the three that we’ve mentioned, could contribute to meeting demand for labor and other social and economic needs.

And on that note, I will turn the mic over to my colleague, the esteemed Aïssata Fall, PRB’s Director for Africa, who will be talking about some of the measures that African governments are putting in place to prepare for sub-Saharan Africa’s dominance in the global labor force. So over to you, Aïssata.


Speaker, Aïssata Fall (PRB): Thank you, Barbara. And sorry for the camera, but I’m on the phone. Um, so. We saw today that if we look at sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, its demographic dynamic is dominated by Ethiopia, DRC, and Nigeria. However, to understand how African leaders are prioritizing investments in the future working-age population, it is critical to think about these needs within their respective geographical, economic, and political contexts. These three countries are part of the African Union, which is composed of 55 member states, um, of Africa. Its primary role is to promote unity, integration, and cooperation among African countries to advance the continent’s socioeconomic development, peace, and security.

Then, the African Union is made up of five regions, as you can see, north, west, central, east, and south. And there is a sixth region, an interesting one, the diaspora, which is defined by African Union as people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality, which is an important aspect.

Regional and continental integration is crucial in the African Union’s agenda because it fosters unity and solidarity among African nations so they can collectively address common challenges and pursue shared goals, integrations, and aims to strengthen Africa’s position in the global arena, allowing it to negotiate and engage on equal footing with other regions of the world.

Alongside these six regions, Africa’s regional economic communities, known as the RECs, such as the Economic Community of West African states, known as ECOWAS, are a vital component of the continent’s integration efforts. They are building blocks of the African Union and facilitate economic integration between members of the region and through the wider African economic community.

Each of Africa’s regions has its own dynamics, especially when it comes to demographics. For example, a citizen from one of the West Africa region’s 15 countries, like Nigeria, can travel to another country within the region with a simple ID card thanks to ECOWAS, the regional economic community. And despite being in a region dominated by the French language, Nigerian people travel a lot within the region to find a job. In another example, a Senegalese citizen can be hired as a staff in the government of Benin’s administration. Such free movement of people do not exist in the Central Africa region, which includes the DRC. While the Central Africa region also has an economic community, people there need a visa, therefore a passport, to travel between countries.

And so, the difference of the cost of a passport compared to a simple ID here shapes access to educational opportunities and also to labor markets, and especially for young people. Then, as we reflect about the working age, working-age population and the drivers for a successful workforce in the future, we must think beyond countries borders.

In Africa, the future of the workforce is embedded in a continental way of thinking and is framed by countries commitment, and also implemented with consideration for different regional and country contexts. Slide, please.

In 2013—you should click, Barbara. In 2013, all 15 member states of the African Union adopted the Agenda 2063, named the Africa We Want. This is a strategic framework for the socioeconomic transformation of the African continent by the year 2063. It outlines key goals and aspirations for Africa’s development. And I want to mention here the first two aspirations related to our topic today.

So, the first one is for a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development that aims to achieve high levels of economic growth, job creation, and sustainable development across the continent, ensuring that the benefits are shared by all African people. One way is the African Union is aiming to accomplish this goal is through the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is intended to create a single market for goods and services across the continent. It has a potential to bring substantial benefits to small-scale businesses and to women and ultimately to spur job creation across various sectors.

The second aspiration of Agenda 2063 is for an integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism, which seeks to achieve a politically united Africa to promote peace, stability, and good governance, and also to strengthen continental integration. Here the African Passport Initiative is intended to facilitate the free movement of people across the continent by introducing a common passport for African citizens. Several countries like Benin, Senegal, Rwanda, and Madagascar are already offering visa-free access or visa on arrival for African people. This freedom of movement can really unlock new opportunities for the transfer of skills, for knowledge, and also labor, while supporting economic growth and development.

Then we see that the African Union Agenda 2063 sets out the long-term vision and aspiration for Africa’s development across various sectors and provide a comprehensive framework for Africa’s overall transformation and progress. It recognizes the youth population and gender equality as key drivers of Africa’s future development. And since 2013, during the last decade, the African Union and its member states have been setting the path with new strategies, plans, and tools to achieve the Agenda’s goals. And the African Union Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend is one of these strategies.

This was signed by all state members in 2017, and it specifically focuses on strategies and action to leverage the potential of Africa’s youth population for economic growth and development. The Roadmap provides a targeted and specific plan to address challenges and opportunities associated with the demographic dividend, with a particular emphasis on youth-focused policies and investment. Then, given the significant share of the young people thinking about the working age population in sub-Saharan Africa means thinking about the demographic dividend, which refers to the accelerated economic growth that can result when more of the country’s population is of working age and employed in well-paying jobs than is too young or too old to work. The African Union’s demographic dividend roadmap focuses on several key areas, including, among other things, education and skills development, and employment and entrepreneurship, and gender equality and empowerment, regional integration, and free movement of people.

Aims of both the Roadmap and the Agenda 2063 would remove barriers and create an enabling environment for youth to travel across borders, to access educational opportunities, employment, and entrepreneurship as they can, access larger markets, and expand their businesses beyond national boundaries. Through the Roadmap, support for small- and medium-sized enterprises and steps to ease access to finances and markets, it can also foster an environment that enables young people to start and grow businesses, thereby creating employment opportunities.

And when it comes to gender, the demographic dividend roadmap acknowledges that equality—gender equality—is not only a matter of social justice, but it is also an essential driver of economic development. The Roadmap aims to ensure that women have equal access to education, economic opportunities, and leadership roles, and with this, its emphasis on girls education. This Roadmap acknowledges that educated girls are more likely to become economically productive adults then.

Both Agenda 2063 and the demographic dividend roadmap work together to guide African countries and decisionmakers in implementing gender-sensitive and youth-centric policies and programs that help achieve sustainable economic growth and maximize the demographic dividend.

To implement the African Union’s Roadmap and realize the structural transformation needed to obtain a demographic dividend, countries must apply appropriate policies, frameworks, and funding, as well as measure and monitor their progress. Different methods and tools have been developed to help inform policy decisions based on a deep understanding of their potential opportunities and challenges, while also considering youth and gender equality aspects, especially to understand their country’s population structure regarding demographic economics, define their current potential for economic transformation, and also use evidence on effective budget allocations as a main instrument for economic based decision.

Achieving this Agenda 2063’s ambitious goals and implementing the demographic dividend roadmap requires changing our mindset. It requires considering the different drivers of success for a strong and productive working-age population within the context of their interrelationships. And, for example, to do so, some monitoring tools that systematically integrate youth and gender aspects are being institutionally institutionalized—sorry for my English—to monitor five critical dimensions using standard indicators agreed by experts at country and continental levels regarding economic dependency, quality of life, poverty transition, human capital, but also networks and territories.

This process of standards and tools used by all countries is a significant step forward because the indicators are defined collectively and enable more appropriate policies to be adopted. The progress lies in the definition by African countries, by themselves, of the results to be achieved and the pathways to follow, anchoring a new way of evidence-based governance principles for the younger generation. And this new way is critical for sustainable policy change and also supports one of the most important agendas, Agenda 2063, the aspiration of empowering women and youth and showing their active participation in decision-making process and their inclusion in the development agenda.

So, what does all this mean for Africa and for its future working-age population? Actually, it is a combination of good news and challenges that need still to be addressed. Agenda 2063 is a new way of thinking about development in Africa, with its focus on integration, youth involvement, and gender equality as drivers for economic growth. And this approach is a positive development needed to help countries and regions give more comprehensive consideration to their populations.

While gaps still exist, decisionmakers in African countries are putting new focus on data on youth and gender in their economic decision-making. We see this emphasis in both Agenda 2063 and the demographic dividend roadmap, as well as in countries’ policies and commitments, but also in the new kind of tools and methods they are using to analyze the situation and inform their policymaking process.

As we look to the future, we must pay attention to what is happening today. Youth employment is an urgent problem on the continent. It is exacting high economic, social, and political costs now and needs creative solutions. Some of these solutions are through partnerships between African researchers, decisionmakers, and organizations like the Regional Consortium for Research in Generational Economy in Senegal, known as CREG, which helps link scientific research to decision-making.

Organizations like PRB can also help countries develop forecasting, look at how a potential demographic dividend could be amplified through increasing gender and youth analysis and communicate evidence for policy decision-making. Africa today and in the future has a lot to offer, and we will continue to follow the evidence and act in close collaboration with our local partners to support countries achieving their potential. Thank you.

Marlene, I give you the floor now.


Speaker, Marlene Lee: Thank you. Thank you, Barbara and Aïssata, for giving a closer look at the geographic shift in the concentration of the global working-age population and the prominence of sub-Saharan Africa’s young population and the policy context within Africa. Truly, continued local and international commitment to African countries’ actions to prepare their working-age populations and to create an enabling environment for job creation is an investment in shaping a global workforce for the future.

Now I’m going to turn to some wonderful questions from our participants. We have participants from Ghana, India, Philippines, Canada, Ethiopia, Nepal, Slovenia, Nigeria, Washington, DC, and more. And we have research professors, geography, teachers, government staff, longtime followers, journalists, and more. So, I hope you are up to the challenge of these questions.

Barbara, we will start with you. Let me read a couple of related questions for you from Sulayman Willie Baldeh. “Why is the life expectancy for Nigeria the same level? I would have expected it to rise. I don’t think this is good if there are improvements on health and development.” From one Wondwosen Teklesilasie, “I think young people’s skills, rather than their numbers, will influence the global economy.” And from Abuja, Abebaw Woldekiros. He wonders what the source of data is. “The life expectancy for Ethiopia was not 54. In 2021, it’s much more than this.” So, if you could answer briefly, I think these are related questions. You are muted, Barbara.


Speaker, Barbara Seligman: Yeah, yeah. Thank you very much for your questions. And again, I’m so flattered that so many of you from so many different corners of the world have joined us this, this morning.

Sulayman, as I mentioned, we too are perplexed by the Nigeria numbers. And I’ve actually put out a request. Unfortunately, I didn’t get an answer in time for this presentation. I want to make clear, though, that we’re looking at life expectancy at age 15. So, life expectancy at birth in Nigeria, of course, is increased importantly because of those big gains in child survival. But we’re still puzzling over why the life expectancy level stays flat over this 30-year period when we look at life expectancy at age 15, and any ideas you might have, sources that you might be able to put us in touch with, to help understand what’s going on there would be most appreciated.

And then, Mr. Teklesilasie, I couldn’t agree with you more. The numbers are a very crude measure. And one of the things that we’ve really tried to be careful about is that in the first part of the presentation, we’re really talking about the size of the global working-age population. And the size of the global working-age population, of course, is not the same as the global workforce. And the point that you make about the skills is part of that translation between numbers and productive engagement in the global workforce. So, thank you for pointing that out.

With respect to life expectancy in in Ethiopia, I am not able to look at that slide right now. But I believe if the source is not listed there, I will make sure to get back to you with that source. And if there’s a, if there’s something that we have misunderstood or there’s something about that source that we should know, that means that we shouldn’t use it. I most recently, most would be very grateful to, have that information and follow that up offline. Over.


Speaker, Marlene Lee: Barbara, I just want to clarify that perhaps there’s a misunderstanding. Our life expectancy numbers that we gave were life expectancy at age 15, not life expectancy at birth.


Speaker, Barbara Seligman: Thank you very much, Marlene. Yes. So we talked about that in the context of Nigeria. But yes, that is true for all of the countries. So, we really wanted to focus on measures of well-being for those who are working, you know, who are entering the workforce, people who are between the ages of 15 to 19, which is why we didn’t use life expectancy at birth. Over.


Speaker, Marlene Lee: Thank you. Aïssata, I’m going to try to read this comment and question slowly. This is from Margaret Walton-Roberts. “If Africa is being demographically positioned to provide labour to the global economy, what does this mean for health systems? Health care workers from Africa are already significant in OECD countries, but the issue of mutual benefits for African-sending countries is not well addressed at the current time. What further policy frameworks are needed from WHO and African regional blocs to safeguard health systems in Africa in light of the increasing role of Africa in health and care labour migration?”


Speaker, Aïssata Fall: Thank you, Marlene, and thank you, Margaret, for this question, which is a great one and a topic we are starting to work on with CREG especially. I would, um, how can I say, that I would frame this question more in the broader issue about care economy and, and what it means globally and for Africa. So, some frameworks are, or some topics are, discussed, especially, for example, around elderly long-term care. And WHO has a lot about that. And what I can tell you is that at country level or at regional levels, the conversation about care, caregivers, the cost of domestic care—which encompass taking care of the family or being able to take care of, um, what is not supported by the government to provide you the minimum of living standards—is quite complex, but not discussed topic in the region.

And one of the first issue is that, as you mentioned, a lot of people are moving and you are talking about health care worker, but you can really broaden this about caregivers for older people, for example, that are working outside Africa. While here, there is no recognition of this need, what is interesting—it could be a long conversation—but what is interesting to consider and I’m happy to talk more about that aside, if you want, as the first thing is, what does care mean in Africa? How is it recognized in the new context and in this demographic context today with an aging population. Yes, we have a young population, but the part of the population is growing, is getting old. And at politic policy level, we have absolutely nothing regarding standards, even considering the needs, because traditionally this is part of the unpaid care work which is today supported by women. And there is a need to really focus this because one, we are we are going to face a big issue on the continent around just care. Is it health care? It is care, just domestic care for elderly.

This is becoming a critical issue, not in 50 years, when in less than 20 years we have no standard. Data exist but are not analyzed, and this is part of the gaps I was mentioning, saying there are still some gaps to have, some complementary analysis to really help to think about our future here and make economic decisions, but also some specific social policies that are considering all these different aspects.

The second part of the issue of who is going to take care and where is going to be the workforce for health care or caregiver, where are they going to be the best employed and use, is about the fact that taking care, addressing this topic, would be a good way to meet the different agendas about decent work. This totally related what you tell about health and care labor migration. The first thing is about having our policymakers better informed about that, which means having analyses, being able to be properly supported, to be done and communicated. I’m very sorry for my not very good English around that. I hope I answered the questions that were quite complex. I’m sorry, Marlene.


Speaker, Marlene Lee: No, no, thank you very much. I think as we look at the questions that some very complex issues are being raised. And from Issa Masarweh, the Secretary General of the Jordan Higher Population Council, there’s a comment that says the huge population size and demographic trends in China and India should concern every country because we all share global environment and prices of basic food items.

Also from Alaka Basu, known to many of us, the DRC levels in female literacy are very high and remarkable and historical policy factors. What historical policy factors account for this? But I believe she had a comment about that. What could be the negative factors in India in the future? From Alana Larrazabal, “What could be the negative factors in India as it transitions to becoming an aged society in 20 years or so?” And from Karoline Schmid, says she takes a more pessimistic view of Africa. Because mortality is declining faster than fertility and the region is experiencing continued population growth. So, how how do you meet the challenge of educating the growing number of youth and the challenge of political instability in many countries in the region? So, I’ve touched the environment, I’ve touched education, I’ve touched aging societies. And I’m going to give both of you, Aïssata and Barbara, an opportunity to pick one of these issues and have a final comment, because we are running out of time. So, Barbara, pick an issue. You’re muted.


Speaker, Barbara Seligman: Thank you so much for your questions and lively engagement. I’ll just pick a couple of the things that were mentioned here. Uh, easy, easy things. First, Alaka—Alaka Basu has been a long time Board member for PRB. If you look at the earlier slide that showed progress in female literacy over the course of the last 20 years, you’ll see that some very substantial gains in female literacy have taken place just quite recently. So, I do want to draw your attention to that. Although the base in 2000 was also pretty high. I think about 63% or so. Again, that’s literacy rates among 15-to-19, 15-to-24-year-olds. So, I think this question about aging is one that’s really, that deserves a lot more attention.

That’s something that we could, we at PRB look forward to exploring both in terms of the question that was addressed earlier about sort of the, you know, we look at the demographics of the working force writ large. What we really want to do more with is looking at the demography of different occupational segments, including home care workers, nurses, and other members of the care economy. Um, and I think that what, you know, I think many planners in India are very worried about making sure that they have the kind of social safety nets in place to, um, you know, to take care of so many elderly.

We look at countries that have gone through very rapid fertility decline, went through the fertility, the demographic transition, quickly. I think about countries like Turkey and Korea, China. Um, the other side of that is rapid aging. And I know from the little that I read about sort of credit ratings and things like that, that insurers and the people who offer credit in the commercial market are paying careful attention to what provisions are in place to care for what will be rapidly aging populations in India and in some other countries. So, I think I’ll stop there and let Aïssata take some of the other questions. I apologize. I didn’t get to all of them.


Speaker, Aïssata Fall: Thank you, Barbara. Thank you, Marlene. Um, I’m going to quickly try to respond to Karoline Schmid’s question about, um, the fact that have a positive view of the chance for a demographic dividend in sub-Saharan Africa and being pessimistic around the current political instability in many countries. Um, well, first thing, I have a positive view about what has been happening in terms of how we are now in Africa—looking at what we need to decide and how we are analyzing the data, demographics, to better consider the two critical key drivers that are youth and gender equality. And I totally agree with you that there is an issue around educating the growing number of youth, providing jobs for the growing workforce, and also political instability, etcetera.

So, I have to be optimistic if I want to do my job, actually, because it would not be easy. I mentioned that discussing the usual analyses, what is being done on education, fertility rates, talking job creation is not sufficient. There is a clear issue around infrastructure and energy that is not sufficiently discussed alongside with social issues, social policies, social policy topics, or human capital topics. The government has to provide the conditions for a conducive environment for the private sector to be able to create jobs. And this needs to be discussed around investments that are not sufficient around energy and infrastructure. That is clear.

Where I am optimistic—it’s not about the demographic dividend. You might be right. Maybe all this should have started earlier. I’m sure, it should have started earlier, but it is now that it is really, this last decade that demonstrated a total mindset shift regarding how policymakers are using different tools to look at their own continent or country differently. And at the same time, what is interesting is that in doing that, there is this gradual, more and more, involvement of youth people. I’m now going to talk about younger, young men, young people, those that are building their future so that they can be part of this decision. If you know Africa, you know that being young in Africa is not that easy. You are a young man until you’re 40, but you’re voting since you’ve been 18.

So, this young participation, equipping young people, this young generation with the tools but also working on bringing them into the policy dialogue spaces. For me, it’s fundamental for them to really root this new governance principles that integrates youth and gender, but also to help them to see that they can be listened to. They can be [listened to] because they are fully fledged citizens. And there are also solutions to that violence. And you talk about instability, and I’m currently in Dakar, and I’m on the phone because of riots and power cuts. So, I totally know what you’re talking about. But when I see all these youth advocates we are working with, helping them to be in the right political space and policy conversation spaces is, for me, a concrete way to help them to become a citizen.

And I just would conclude about what you are, what you are saying for me, and this is a personal opinion, what is missing in this conversation is that the word, the word citizen never appears. When I was talking about mindset shifting? It’s about we are technicians. Let’s talk techniques. Let’s talk electricity, technical, sectoral domain. But let’s not forget that all this is needed to support a real democratic dialogue. And we are talking not about beneficiaries or partners. We are talking about citizens. Actually, this is for me, something that needs to be pushed forward. So, thank you.


Speaker, Marlene Lee: Thank you, Aïssata. You’ve touched up on some of the issues raised in other questions, and we have run out of time for questions, but we will be looking forward to future discussions.

I’ll just mention that Robert Thompson raised the issue that we didn’t look at urban or rural. We didn’t look at rural migration to urban areas and what that means for employment and food product, productivity. And the question of why we’re looking at continental data and comparing it to other countries. So, doing more breakdowns at the national level is definitely something we can think about for the future.

I really am sorry we don’t have a green room session after this where we could just open it up to the audience. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do that. I want to thank our audience. Please look for our post-briefing email.

We will continue the conversation in coming months to learn more about these demographic trends and related policy in African countries. Please follow Barbara Seligman and Aïssata Fall and PRB on LinkedIn. URLs to their profiles are in the chat and thank you for participating in our webinar.