East African Governments Urged to Invest in Region’s Youth as Growing Population Prepares to Flood Job Market

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East Africa’s young population is expected to grow at a rapid pace as more youth join the region’s job market in the coming decades. According to a United Nations (UN) report titled ‘World Population Prospects’, the number of people in East Africa is expected to grow from 282 million in 2016 to 596 million in 2050.

“East Africa is also young,” states a new report from the United States based information company, Economic Analysis and Data Services (EADS).

The average median age for East African countries is 18 years old and on average, more than 60 percent of persons in East African countries are below the age of 25, according to a 2017 analysis by the UN Population Division.

It is estimated that 55 percent of East Africa’s population will be below the age of 25 by 2030 with a median age of 23 by the same year, EADS research indicates.

“This means that the majority of the East African population either already have or will go to school, college, or about to enter the workforce. This has major implications for the region,” EADS researchers said in their analysis.

The research comes just as Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy, is planning to focus on deepening regional integration following a recent deadlock on the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade negotiations. Kenya’s Principal Secretary for the country’s Ministry of Trade, Chris Kiptoo, said in that the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference held in December 2017 ended in a stalemate resulting in no key multi-lateral outcomes.

“Given little progress being made at the multilateral trade engagements, Kenya will put more focus on deepening regional integration at the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Tripartite Free Trade Area bringing together EAC, COMESA and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA),” Kiptoo said.

The IMF has implied that East Africa’s youth could stand to benefit from said agreements.

EADS experts argued that a young population can be an asset, adding that it can provide a large tax base as the number of working-age individuals enter the economy. It can also provide an increase in the consumer economy as more young people enter the market, and lead to growth in manufacturing and service sectors as more people join the workforce. This is according to a 2017 report from the Royal Geographical Society, a United Kingdom (UK) professional body.

“Therefore, it is of utmost importance that right policies, laws, and institutions are introduced in order to harness the demographic dividend,” EADS researchers affirmed.

The Data Services group stated that East African governments should, therefore, work towards providing and improving education and employment opportunities in their respective countries.

East Africa’s economy is expected to have grown by 7.3 percent in 2017, according to the latest projections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), not adjusting for inflation.

East African economies such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Djibouti, Uganda, and Kenya are expected to grow by more than 40 percent by 2022 compared with their GDP in adjusting for inflation.

These countries are expected to be the main drivers of GDP growth  in  East Africa. Meanwhile,  Ethiopia and  Rwanda are expected to double their economic growth by 2022.

The IMF data has confirmed that since 2004, East Africa has outgrown the rest of Sub Saharan Africa. Countries that make up the East African region as a whole are expected to grow larger compared to countries that make up Sub Saharan Africa.

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