Analysts looking at Africa from a western or developed perspective often quote demographics on the continent’s young population as indicative of a prosperous future. In my view this is misguided at best and deluded at worst.
Africa’s young population is not a blessing, it is a weight on our resources and a serious impediment to faster development. In short, I believe the millions of unwanted children across the continent, are what is keeping us back. I do not see them as contributing to a prosperous future, only consuming already very scarce resources and diluting the prospects of the minority of the youth that will eventually benefit from all the current “interventions” that are in vogue.
There are very few people who agree with my views on demographics, or at least have the guts to say so. My emphasis on unwanted children and the enormous economic burden they constitute, has been criticised far and wide.
Fortunately, every now and then sanity prevails and we find some analytical work that is based on sound principles and rational analysis, supporting my notion that we do not need more children, but more educated children.
The latest GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) report, ‘Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs: Unlocking The Potential For A Brighter Future’ was released earlier this week. The author warns that Africa’s youth bulge poses an enormous threat to the region, unless more targeted support is provided to youth entrepreneurs, specifically in the age group 18 to 34.
The report was compiled by an associate professor at the University of Cape Town, Jacqueline Kew, using data collected from nine sub-Saharan countries, including Namibia. The report looks specifically at the nature of youth entrepreneurship.
Confirming the youth’s drag on the economy, Professor Kew was quoted as saying “Young Africans are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. And in a region where 62% of the population is under the age of 25, serious interventions are needed to ensure that the youth have access to jobs which are sustainable and crucially, that lead to more jobs for others.”
This report is an eye-opener. It argues that Africa’s youthful demographics may not hold the key to our future as some would want us to believe. Rather, an uncared and untended youth eventually grows up to become disillusioned adults, and this is typically the root of all revolt. The report does not say this, it is my take, but it is obvious that two things must happen. First, those young people that exist must be nurtured to a far higher level that we have been able to achieve so far, and, secondly, the rate at which new infants are born must be reduced substantially, otherwise we shall only continue in poverty and backwardness.
It is usually at this point that people’s eyebrows shoot upwards. The reaction is easy to understand. My typical audience generally does not understand the nature, definitions and long-term implications of demographics.
I am not making a moral statement, that is the task of church leaders. I am stating, based on a rational assessment, that if we continue with our unabated proliferation, our development curve will never get ahead of our demographic curve. We will remain in poverty, regardless of what we do, because we breed ourselves into oblivion. The number of mouths only continue to increase at a rate far higher than our ability to educate our youth. The available resources simply can not keep up. We get poorer by the day as we produce more and more unwanted children.
Anybody who doubts the sincerity of my observations, is welcome to join me for a drive around the city, and that does not need to be Windhoek, it can be any African city.
The lower the standard of living, the higher the number of unwanted and uncared-for children roaming the streets. We are not talking about the odd infant, baby or child that lost his or her parents, we are talking about thousand upon thousands of delinquent children. When we consider the whole continent, they are millions upon millions.
It is no use offering the excuse that the children are victims of circumstances beyond their control. In a civil society, parents assume the responsibility to raise their own children. In a society lacking values, children, whose parents often are still children themselves, get dumped on Ouma, and then there is a valiant attempt to turn Ouma into a hero.
The choice is ours. We must spend liberally on education but we must also strongly reinforce the principles of planned parenthood, and producing only those children we can raise responsibly.