23 March 2017, Lusaka: To effectively implement the 2017 African Union theme devoted to “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth” as well as its corresponding roadmap, the National Assembly of Zambia have signed a statement of commitment to support ongoing efforts to harness the Demographic Dividend in Zambia.
This was during a Demographic Dividend capacity building meeting for Members of Parliament held on 23 March 2017, facilitated by the African Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development; the Zambian Ministry of National Development Planning; the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
What is the Demographic Dividend?
Zambia is currently reported to have 82% of its population aged 35 and below -- the highest total number of young people than ever before. The next chapter for Zambia therefore depends on this large age group.
This growing youthful population provides an opportunity to realize a demographic dividend, which is the economic benefit that arises when a country has a relatively large proportion of working-aged adults relative to young dependents; resulting from rapid fertility decline as well as sustained investments in health, education, job creation and improved governance.
In order to harness this “dividend”, it is therefore critical to note that investments made to improve the health and development of young people today, who represent Zambia’s greatest asset, will determine the development trajectory of Zambia over the next 50 years and position the country towards realizing the “Zambia We Want”; a prosperous middle income country as envisioned in Zambia’s Vision 2030.
The current demographic transition in Zambia has the ability to steer the next surge of economic growth, with a population characterized by healthier and more educated youth who are better placed to obtain the skills required for them to become economically productive adults. As members of Parliament, we will use our oversight role at constituency levels to support Government and stakeholders efforts aimed at harnessing the demographic dividend from Zambia’s youthful population
Parliamentarians as Transformers and Change Agents Towards Harnessing Zambia’s Demographic Dividend
The engagement with the Zambian Parliament in scaling up policy actions to harness Zambia’s Demographic Dividend builds on the acknowledgement of the role of Parliamentarians as powerful change agents for development – including debating critical development issues across organs of parliament; reviewing and passing inclusive laws; approving, appropriating and monitoring implementation of national budgets; oversight and accountability in implementation of policies and programmes; and holding Government and stakeholders accountable for delivery of development programs.
Speaking during the official opening ceremony of the capacity building, Hon. Jonas Chanda, chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services, underscored the significance of the Demographic Dividend to overall sustainable national development in Zambia.
“The current demographic transition in Zambia has the ability to steer the next surge of economic growth, with a population characterized by healthier and more educated youth who are better placed to obtain the skills required for them to become economically productive adults. As members of Parliament, we will use our oversight role at constituency levels to support Government and stakeholders efforts aimed at harnessing the demographic dividend from Zambia’s youthful population,” Hon. Chanda said.
Reiterated Hon. Chanda’s remarks, Hon. Marie-Rose Nguini Effa, chairperson of the African Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, highlighted the body’s commitment to championing the demographic dividend at national and regional levels, and commended the African Union Commission, UNFPA and IPPF for collaborating with Members of Parliament in this regard.
“We recognize the critical link between the population of a country and its ability to achieve sustainable economic development, and that the youth are the most important driving force of sustainable development and demographic transition of the African continent. We thank the African Union Commission, UNFPA and IPPF for their continued support," she said.
Also speaking at the opening ceremony, UNFPA Zambia Representative Dr. Mary Otieno reaffirmed UNFPA’s support, while acknowledging the commitment of Parliamentarians towards the realization of human rights for all Zambians, and more so their continued call for increased investments in young peoples’ health and development.
“With Zambia’s growing youthful population, there is potential for economic transformation, but this does not come automatically. In order to harness the demographic dividend, the is need for strategic investments in education and skills to match the 21st century market; the health of the population and especially the youth; employment and entrepreneurship skills for the youth; as well as an enabling environment, good governance and accountability. The role of parliamentarians in this regard is essential. UNFPA reaffirms its commitment to sustain collaborations with Parliamentarians and other stakeholders in taking forward the ambitious and far reaching agenda of harnessing the Demographic Dividend in Zambia and Africa, towards achieving Zambia’s Vision 2030 and Africa’s Agenda 2063 respectively,” Dr. Otieno said.
Demographic Dividend and Zambia’s Vision 2030
In his presentation at the capacity building meeting, Mr. Charles Banda, Director of Population and Development in the Zambian Ministry of National Development Planning reiterated the link between the Demographic Dividend; Zambia’s 7th National Development Plan and Vision 2030; and the 17 far reaching, complex and inter-dependent Sustainable Development Goals - which underscore the need to ensure that all people, and in particular women, girls and young people, have equitable access to socio-economic opportunities to secure their full potentials.
“In 2015, the Ministry of National Development Planning in collaboration with UNFPA undertook the Demographic Dividend Study for Zambia, which was launched by H.E. President Edgar Changwa Lungu and has also informed Zambia’s 7th National Development Plan among others. The Ministry will continue to collaborate with UNFPA, to invest in evidence generation for districts and constituents in order to inform planning and implementation – which will contribute to Zambia’s achievement of its Vision 2030 and the SDGs in Zambia,” he said.
Also reiterating the significance of investing in young peoples’ future potentials, UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Technical Adviser - Population Data Policy, Mr. Fredrick Okwayo, highlighted that “African countries can harness massive demographic dividends if they implement the right policies in an integrated manner. Specifically, Zambia can increase its per capita gross domestic product (GDP), to earn an additional US$ 611 in 2030 and US$ 7,393 in 2053 if it accelerates fertility reduction; improves child survival; invests in education as well as prevents child marriage and teenage pregnancies; improves the health status of its labor force; accelerates economic reforms and job creation, and invests in governance and accountability”, he said.
Championing the African Union Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth
In concluding the capacity building meeting, the Zambia All Party Parliamentary group on Population and Development (ZAPPD), a chapter of the Parliament of Zambia, signed a “statement of commitment” to facilitate the implementation of the “African Union Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth”.
Read by Hon. Jonas Chanda, chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services, the statement underscored the following:
The current Road Map will be implemented by the Zambia All Party Parliamentary group on Population and Development (ZAPPD), a chapter of the Parliament of Zambia in collaboration with local partners such as UNFPA Country Office, Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia as well as regional/international parliamentary networks and development partners that will provide technical and where possible financial support to the activities defined in the Road Map.
The Zambia All Party Parliamentary group on Population and Development (ZAPPD), a chapter of the Parliament of Zambia affirm its commitment to support the country’s effort to attain the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063. We hereby pledge to proactively participate in the preparation of the National Demographic Dividend Road Map and promote the health agenda as outlined in the Zambian Road Map on the Demographic Divided