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Africa’s population explosion worries African Development Bank

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and its East and North African governors have stressed the need for urgent measures to match the continent’s growing population and youth unemployment, which they likened to a “ticking time bomb.”

In a March 7 AfDB statement, the governors who had met for a two-day consultation described the continent’s growing young population as a potential growth engine for the world.

“The good news is that the solution is within our reach and will require investments,” Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB president, is quoted as saying at the bank’s headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Governors also discussed a strategy for closing Africa’s $170 billion infrastructure investment gap.

To bridge the gap, ensure inclusive growth, and create employment for the continent’s population, the meeting endorsed the AfDB-led African Investment Forum and described it as a timely opportunity to catalyse investments into projects and attract social impact financing to Africa.

According the statement, Tanzania’s minister for Finance and Planning, Isdor Mpango, called for closer involvement of the private sector in financing development on the continent.

“The AfDB is well positioned to advise and assist governments and the private sector to come up with bankable projects,” Mpango said, calling for direct resources to provide budget support and investment opportunities.”

Through the African Investment Forum, scheduled for November 7-9, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the AfDB and its partners intend to showcase bankable projects, attract financing, and provide platforms for investing across Africa. The forum will bring together the AfDB and other global multilateral financial institutions to de-risk investments at scale.

“A uniqueness of the African Investment Forum is that there will be no speeches.  The only speeches will be transactions,” said President Adesina. 

Rwanda’s minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Claver Gatete said: “The AfDB has already discussed the concept of the African Investment Forum with us. The Rwandan government takes this Forum very seriously.”

“Jobs will come from industrialisation. The new approach using the African Investment Forum to de-risk the sector and attract investors is the way to go,” said Kiplagat Rotich, Kenyan Finance minister.

Statistics indicate that 13 per cent of the world’s population is estimated to live in sub-Saharan Africa today. The number is projected to more than double by 2050. Four billion (or 36 per cent of the world’s population) could live in the region by 2100, according to the UN Population Division.

Africa is projected to have over 840 million youth by 2050 with the continent having the youngest population on earth. 

According to Adesina, “We have 12 years left to the SDGs. It is an alarm bell because if Africa does not achieve the SDGs, the world won’t achieve them. The AfDB deepened her disbursements to the highest levels ever last year and we are leveraging more resources for Africa.”

Algeria’s Finance minister Abderahmane Raouia said Africa’s biggest challenge today is job creation.

“It is a stake of stability and a lever to pull economic growth upwards. We must offer job opportunities for young people to convince them to stay here on the continent," Raouia said.

Despite the growing population, AfDB believed the prospects for 2018-2020 are bright, with 50.3 million people benefitting from improved access to transport compared to 14 million in 2017. Also, more than 35 million people are expected to benefit from new or improved electricity connections, in contrast to 4.4 million delivered in 2017.


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