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Africa’s Restless Youth

Author: Michelle D. Gavin, Adjunct Fellow for Africa
May 2007
Current History

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Scanning the horizon for insight as to what will influence the future of sub-Saharan Africa, one can immediately point to several broad baskets of important indicators. Obviously contributing to the picture are economic growth (or the lack thereof), insecure borders, increasing resource scarcity, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the balance of power within nations among ethnic and regional groups. However, a close look at the political engagement and political agendas of youth should also be included in the mix. Young Africans’ quest for empowerment will make them significant catalysts for change.

Africa is currently in the midst of what demographers call a youth bulge. A youth bulge typically occurs when less-developed countries, with both high fertility and high mortality rates, begin to bring infant and child mortality rates down. Eventually, development gains tend to bring fertilityrates down as well. But in the lag time before this occurs, a population boom of children who survive to adulthood reshapes the demographic landscape.

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