Adjunct Associate Professor Adrian Hayes attended the 7th African Population Conference in Pretoria 27 Nov – 6 Dec 2015 as a representative of the Asian Population Association invited to speak at a special session entitled, ‘Harnessing the demographic dividend in Africa: What can we learn from Asia and Latin America?’ In some policy circles in sub-Saharan Africa there is now a palpable optimism – some of it undoubtedly unrealistic – that the dividend will bring unprecedented economic benefits to the continent. In his presentation Hayes emphasized that while the demographic dividend is real it is also elusive. Its realization depends most crucially on ensuring that favourable demographic dependency ratios translate into favourable economic support ratios, and the Asian experience suggests researchers need to give much more explicit attention to this relationship. He also highlighted the way recent work under the International National Transfer Accounts Project has provided something of a ‘game changer’ in the way we can now view and analyse the changing ratio of ‘producers’ to ‘consumers’ in different countries, although research in this area is still quite limited in Africa.
The session was organized and chaired by the President of the Union of African Population Studies (UAPS), Professor Jean-François Kobiané. Another speaker in the session was Dr Eliya Zulu, Executive Director of the African Institute for Development Policy (AFID) and former President of UAPS, who holds a Masters degree in Population and Development from the ANU.
Hayes also participated as an invited panel member in a session convened by the World Bank discussing an advanced copy of their latest Global Monitoring Report to be published under the title, Development Goals in an Era of Demographic Change. Hayes says he left the conference convinced that an Africa-Asia dialogue – with active ANU participation, of course! – about research aimed at clarifying the demographic dividend concept and its uses could prove extremely productive and valuable, especially if positioned in the broader context of understanding how ‘to surf the waves of demographic change’ in both regions so as to help achieve the internationally-agreed sustainable development goals (SDGs) for 2015-2030.