Botswana does not have the luxury of long-term planning to maximise its first demographic dividend, a study carried by the United Nations (UN)’s reproductive health and rights agency ÔÇô United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) revealed last week.
Entitled “Opportunities and Policy actions to maximise the demographic dividend in Botswana”, the study was carried in conjunction with the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) supported by the Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU) of the University of Cape Town and national consultants from the University of Botswana (UB).
The Demographic Dividend refers to the temporary economic benefit that can arise from a significant increase in the ratio of working-age adults relative to young dependents that result from fertility decline.
As part of their recommendations, the economic think tanks who compiled the report cautioned Botswana government and all development actors “to act with urgency and implement game-changer interventions”.
The UNFPA report, which was launched in the capital Gaborone on Friday state that interventions will enable Botswana to take full advantage of the demographic dividend to achieve its long-term development aspirations as articulated in Vision 2036 to become a fully modernised high-income country.
Economic pundits who attended the launch on Friday noted while Botswana can boasts about its demographic dividend, the same dividend cannot be taken for granted in the face of high rates of youth unemployment, skills deficit, low productivity as well low wages amongst its working citizens. Botswana’s unemployment rate is deemed to have reached crisis proportions with 61 percent of youth aged 15 ÔÇô 29 unemployed.
At the same time, the domestic economy has been stagnating in the last few years, resulting in a growing concern that the demographic bonus could instead turn into a disaster.
According to the UNFPA report, Botswana’s window of opportunity for harnessing her first demographic dividend opened before 1990, while the magnitude of the first demographic dividend peaked in 2008 and it is now in the diminishing returns phase until around 2050 when the window of opportunity will close.
The study shows that the cumulative boost in living standards emanating from the first demographic dividend between 1990 and 2060 will be 36 percent.
“Of this, 24 percent has already been accumulated between 1990 and 2015 while the remaining boost of 12 percent will accrue between 2015 and 2060, assuming the country follows the Medium fertility variant of the UN population projections”, state part of the report.
Meanwhile the report which was launched by the incoming President Mokgweetsi Masisi called on the Botswana government to prioritise economic reforms and investments to urgently accelerate creation of jobs and other well-paying livelihoods for the country’s youth, who continue to be dependent up to age 32.