Africa’s child population is projected to increase by 170 million by 2030, UNICEF said in a report released on Thursday.
“The Generation 2030 Africa 2.0 report”, also notes that Africa can reap a demographic dividend that will see per capita incomes increase by up to four-fold by 2050, if policies that promote job growth are made alongside investment in human capital.
UNICEF said the projected expansion in Africa’s child population will necessitate an increase of over 11 million skilled education and health personnel by 2030, if it is to keep pace with the continent’s unprecedented demographic transition.
“Investing in health, protection, and education must become an absolute priority for Africa between now and 2030,” UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Leila Pakkala said.
The report identifies three key issues for investment: health care, education, protection and empowerment of women and girls.
It says the number of Africa’s children will top one billion by 2055.
It notes that Africa will have to add 5.6 million new health workers and 5.8 million new teachers by 2030 due to the rapid growing population.
“We are at the most critical juncture for Africa’s children. Get it right, and we set the foundation for a demographic dividend, which could lift hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty, and contribute to enhanced prosperity, stability, and peace,” said Pakkala.
The report said almost half of the continent’s population is under 18 years old, and children comprise the majority of the population in about one third of the 55 African Union member states.
The UN report urges African countries to secure and ensure protection of children from violence, exploitation, child marriage and abuse.
The report also urged African countries to remove barriers preventing women and girls from participating fully in community, workplace, and political life with enhanced access to reproductive health services.
“Imagine the potential of one billion children,” UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa Marie-Pierre Poirier said.
“If Africa steps up its investments in children and youth now, transforms its education systems and empowers women and girls to participate fully in community, workplace and political life, it will be able to reap faster, deeper and longer dividends from its demographic transition.”
According to the report, if investments do not occur in Africa’s youth and children, the opportunity may be replaced by a demographic disaster, characterized by unemployment and instability.