ALTHOUGH Zambia has over the last decade recorded sustained economic growth averaging 6.1 percent and graduated into the lower middle-income status in 2011, the gains have not translated into inclusive and equitable socio-economic development for Zambians, President Edgar Lungu has said.
He said despite the good economic indicators, Zambia still experienced challenges of high poverty levels and high unemployment especially among the young people.
President Lungu, however, said Zambia’s large youthful population presented an opportunity for harnessing the demographic dividend with right investments made in priority areas of the economy such as education and health, among others.
He said investing in creating opportunities and supportive environment for innovation and entrepreneurship for all persons of all ages particularly young people remained an urgent responsibility.
The President was speaking in New York at the high level consultative meeting for Heads of State and Government on Demographic Dividend and Investing in Youth.
“I wish to state from the outset that the “Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development in Africa Beyond 2014” and the Africa Union Agenda 2063 gives us the impetus and the commitment to realize Africa’s demographic dividend. There is need for African member states to continue to advance regional and national efforts to translate the commitments to concrete actions by integrating demographic dimensions in all national development programmes,” Mr Lungu said.
This, he said, could be achieved by adopting appropriate policies and prioritizing investments that have the capacity to trigger demographic transitions and subsequently lead to harnessing the demographic dividend for sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development.
“In 2014, the Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Finance, and with support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), conducted a study to assess Zambia’s prospects of harnessing the demographic dividend and explored various priority policy and programme options. The findings of the study show that simultaneous and accurate prioritized investments in economic, social and demographic factors through an integrated approach to population and development provides profound evidence that can transform an economy,” he said.
President Lungu said, Zambia needed to align Zambia’s Vision 2030 transformative agenda pillars to the policy for creating and earning the demographic dividend.
He was happy that Zambia already had a policy framework required to harness the demographic dividend.
“If well implemented, with policy investments and programmes that simultaneously prioritize economic growth and job creation, education, family planning health and governance, the country will earn a demographic dividend of US$ 7,393 per capita. Further per capita Gross Domestic Product will increase from US$ 1,839 in 2013 to US$ 26,940 in 2053,” President Lungu said.
President Lungu also said contraceptive prevalence rate would increase from 45 to 74 percent with total fertility rate reducing from 5.3 to 2.11.
He said while there would be a decline in the annual population growth rate from 2.8 to 1.3 percent the overall population size would increase to up to 36 million while the dependency burden would decline from 0.96 to 0.51.
The President was optimistic that there would be an increase in the size of the working age population from 7.8 million in 2013 to 26 million in 2053 in the ages 15 and above.
He said appropriate interventions would ensure employment gaps were reduced from 15 million to 7 million by 2053.