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How significant could Africa’s demographic dividend be for growth and poverty reduction?

S. Amer Ahmed's picture
Total dependency ratio, 1950-2030
Total dependency ratio, 1950-2030 *


Africa’s population grew at an average annual rate of 2.6 percent between 1950 and 2014, much faster than the global average of 1.7 percent as estimated from UN population projection data. During this time, the region experienced a demographic transition, moving from a period of high mortality and fertility rates to one of lower mortality, yet still high fertility rates. Other regions, most notably East Asia, took advantage of their transitions to accelerate growth, and reap a so-called ‘demographic dividend’. Africa is now being presented a similar opportunity.

Souvenons-nous des orphelins d’Ebola mais n'oublions pas non plus les autres enfants touchés par l’épidémie

David Evans's picture
Also available in: English

UNICEF/Mark Naftalin

L’information diffusée par les médias sur l’épidémie d’Ebola en Afrique de l’Ouest attire souvent l’attention sur les enfants orphelins. Reportage après reportage, des histoires déchirantes (a) nous parviennent d’enfants qui ont perdu leurs parents à cause du virus Ebola et qui sont parfois même rejetés par leur communauté. Ces enfants méritent notre attention, car chacun sait que la perte d’un parent est lourde de conséquences à court et à long terme. Des travaux empiriques menés au Kenya (a), en Afrique du Sud (a), en Tanzanie (a) et dans l’ensemble du continent font apparaître que les résultats scolaires des enfants devenus orphelins se détériorent rapidement. Certaines observations en Tanzanie montrent que ces impacts négatifs sur l’éducation et la santé continuent de se faire sentir jusqu’à l’âge adulte. 

Remember Ebola’s orphans, but don’t forget all the other affected children

David Evans's picture
Also available in: Français

UNICEF/Mark Naftalin

Much of the media coverage of children during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic has been focused on orphans. Repeatedly, we have read heartbreaking stories of children who have lost parents to the disease and even been rejected by their communities. These children deserve our attention: We know that losing a parent has both short-term and long-term impacts. Evidence from Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and across Africa demonstrates significant reductions in educational outcomes for orphans in the short run. Evidence from Tanzania shows that adverse education and health effects persist into adulthood.

Lucky Countries Or Lucky People: Will East Africans Benefit From Their Natural Resource Discoveries?

Borko Handjiski's picture

Luck has struck the region of East Africa: for a couple of years now, new announcements of natural resource discoveries are being made every few months. Mozambique has found some of the largest natural gas deposits in the world, while Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya have also discovered gas and oil. Exploration is still ongoing, so even more discoveries could be forthcoming. Luck has definitely struck the region, but the main question is: how will the people in these countries benefit from this?

Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa: “A historical perspective on land and labor”

Gareth Austin's picture
A Ghanaian carpenter shapes wood for a coffin in his workshop. ©Jonathan Ernst/World Bank

The inaugural Annual Bank Conference on Africa examined strategies for converting economic growth into poverty reduction. Taking an economic historian’s perspective, the prospects are complicated by long-term shifts in fundamental patterns, specifically from land abundance to land scarcity and, relatedly, from labor repression to landlessness as the principal source of poverty.

The Niger River Delta - a strategic asset in Africa’s Sahel region

Paula Caballero's picture

A aerial view of the inland Niger delta and surrounding farmlands © bleuguy / FlickR

The southern fringes of the Sahara desert host rugged lands where mankind has thrived for more than a millennium. In this vast panorama, the Inner Niger Delta stands out: In a region where limited rainfall is a fact of life, the Delta is a natural dam and irrigation scheme whose flood plain creates a grazing and cropping perimeter that at its peak can reach 30,000 km2 and sustains about 900,000 people.  

Deworming improves child cognition. Eventually.

Owen Ozier's picture

You could be forgiven if you found deworming to be something of an enigma.  Some have hailed it as one of the most cost effective interventions for improving school participation in developing countries. Yet two recent review papers, drawing together the lessons from many studies, find insignificant effects of deworming on learning specifically and only uncertain evidence on cognition more generally.  How could this be?

The short answer is that, until a few months ago, both views could be right. I explain why in this 7-minute talk highlighting my recent research.

Africa Big Ideas: Health

But if you prefer to read rather than watch the video, allow me to explain.

Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty: One Infrastructure Investment at a Time

Leonard Wantchekon's picture
A rural village in Benin ©Arne Hoel/World Bank

A couple years ago I returned to Dovi, my maternal village, for the first time since my middle school years in the mid-1970s. Located in the highly fertile Oueme River Valley, the village at that time was one of the most affluent parts of Central Benin, the breadbasket of Agonlin region. It had the second largest market and one of the best primary schools in the country.

Inequality and Africa’s IDA Middle Income Trap

Ravi Kanbur's picture



Inequality is of concern for at least three reasons. First, lower inequality per se is an objective for a decent society. Second, lower inequality improves the efficiency of economic growth in achieving poverty reduction. Third, high inequality impedes growth itself, through its impact on social cohesion and the investment climate.

Looking at Poverty…Through the Eyes of a Child

Bekele Shiferaw's picture
Looking at Poverty…Through the Eyes of a Child  - Photo© Curt Carnemark / World Bank


“I am always hungry, as oftentimes my family and I skip meals. I want to go to school like my friends, but my parents always say it is too expensive. If I go to school, then I can’t work to help them buy food, and then I am hungry again. I am helpless when it comes to changing my situation, I have no voice and there are few people that see things the way I do.”

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