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FEATURE STORYJune 27, 2023

Investing in Youth, Transforming Africa



  • By 2075, one-third of the world's population—and of the working-age population—will be African. It is the only region where the workforce will grow continuously in the coming decades.
  • This gives Africa an enormous opportunity to drive economic growth and prosperity through investments in education, skills, and health.
  • Africa's Heads of State are gathering at the Africa Human Capital Heads of State Summit to discuss how to accelerate human capital accumulation, leverage the youth bulge, and create jobs to propel economic growth.

Young people on the continent have aspirations, energy, and ambition. This is the most connected generation of Africans in history, one that can turn the trajectory of their continent. The growing working-age population presents an enormous opportunity to super-charge economic growth and lead to greater prosperity for billions of people on the continent.


"I am going to school to become a productive member of society." 
Tshitenge Merveille, Democratic Republic of Congo, aspires to become a doctor.

The population of young people aged 15-24 in Africa is projected to reach 500 million in 2080. The working age population of 25-64 will only peak after 2100 at about 1.5 billion people. If the people are healthy, educated, and skilled, this projected working-age population can be the long-awaited big push to accelerate the region's economic growth.

Africa is battling a learning crisis. Millions of children are out of school and most of those in school are falling behind on key learning indicators: reading, writing, and basic math. The percentage of 10-year-olds unable to understand a simple text is projected to be approaching 89% after the COVID pandemic.

The current education system is at capacity, and the demand will only increase. Africa will represent over 40% of the school-age population in low- and middle-income countries by 2050. The population growth presents significant fiscal pressure on governments including on public service delivery, early childhood development interventions, and sustained investment in accessible and quality education for all, especially for women and girls.

The Urgency of Investing Today

Africa's future growth trajectory is ready to take off and this leap can be led by a generation of young people able to realize their full potential and transform their communities and nations.


 "I see myself in five years working for a think tank to promote evidence-based decision making."
Rael Teresa Adhiambo, Student of Africa Center of Excellence for Coastal Resilience (CoR), Ghana.

"Timely investments in the education and health of its population can increase productivity, spur job creation to create a demographic dividend, and unlock the enormous economic potential of the region," said Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Regional Vice President for Eastern and Southern Africa.

The urgency of investing today comes from the unique moment in Africa's demographic history, countered by fiscal pressures and the huge needs of the African people. It will require a strong country and regional commitment to the development of human capital.

Given this time-sensitive window, Africa's Heads of State are convening at the Africa Human Capital Heads of State Summit on July 25-26 in Dar es Salaam to discuss this agenda as a top-of-the-line priority.

"We will not be able to deliver change without building political momentum in the region. For this reason, this Summit will be vital for ensuring that countries accelerate investments in people and ensure a better future for all. Let's invest in future generations today to transform Africa," said Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Regional Vice President for Western and Central Africa.

What Has Been Done So Far

Since the Africa Human Capital Plan was launched in 2019, the World Bank's commitments in human development operations in Africa have reached a historic $34 billion, with $11.5 billion in new investments championing women and girls.


"When a girl is included in society, society moves forward."
Alice Adja, Côte d'Ivoire, aspires to become a pastry chef.

Several countries have made progress and there is visible impact of these investments:

The Democratic Republic of Congo's major education reforms, supported by the World Bank Emergency Equity and System Strengthening in Education Project, have shown consistent results: an additional 2.3 million students were enrolled in public primary schools in project provinces in the 2021-22 school year and 58,000 new teachers have been hired.

In Nigeria, Edo state saw an opportunity to further the development of its digital education drive and used WhatsApp, among other platforms, to organize e-classes. Through its EdoBEST initiative, more than 11,000 teachers received rigorous training and 7,000 virtual classrooms were created. 

The Africa Centers of Excellence Project (ACEs) is the first large-scale regional program in the higher education sector in Africa. It addresses higher-level skills and innovative research requirements for the continent's priority development sectors. The centers, geared towards international standards, deliver quality training that helps to fulfill labor market demands on the continent.


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