Over the last ten years, it has become evident that the demographic dividend framework offers a strategic basis for focusing and prioritizing investments in people in general and youth in particular, in order to achieve sustainable development. The demographic dividend framework is in line with Africa’s Agenda 2063 and its’ ‘First Ten-Year Implementation Plan’ which together lay a strong foundation for the vision of African leaders in all facets of the continent’s development.
Likewise, it also underpins the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Young people comprise a significant percentage of the population. While many countries have already made progress in investing in young people, they must do much more if they want to harness the demographic dividend in this region. Young people in West and Central Africa face considerable challenges. This region has some of the world’s highest levels of child marriage, adolescent pregnancy and maternal mortality rates (especially among adolescents). Young people often do not have access or opportunities for the right education that provides them the knowledge and skills to protect their health, or to prepare them adequately for the labour market.
This position paper presents several strong arguments about why it is imperative to address child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, if we want to succeed in harnessing the demographic dividend in West and Central Africa. It also provides recommendations on the key actions different stakeholder groups can take to make this a reality. UNFPA is committed to supporting Governments and other stakeholders to harness the demographic dividend including through actions to end child marriage and reduce adolescent pregnancies in the region.