In 2022, the Africa’s population reached 1.4 billion people. By 2050, this number is projected to increase to 2.5 billion. Particularly in low-income countries on the continent, population growth often exacerbates governments’ existing challenges of providing sufficient schools, health care, food, and safe drinking water for their people. African countries are working to meet this demographic challenge by accelerating and increasing strategic investments in young people, as laid out in the African Union’s 2017 Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend. Yet there remains a disconnect between national level policymaking on population and development issues, and the communities that are targeted by these policies.
The role of faith leaders in shaping Africa’s demographic future
In many communities around the world, including in Africa, religious leaders are respected figures who tend to enjoy greater trust than the state. In addition, faith-based organisations are often already engaged in providing information or services related to public health, education, psycho-social wellbeing, and humanitarian assistance, all of which are crucial for sociodemographic development. Therefore, religious actors and leaders in Africa have ample opportunities to influence the continent’s demographic future, and many already do. Whether it is through faith-based programmes encouraging men to play a role in advancing gender equality in their relationships and communities, or faith leaders highlighting support for family planning in Christian and Islamic religious texts, multi-religious engagement on demographic issues is already making an impact. This project aims to build on existing efforts and connect more religious actors and leaders with information and best practices, with each other, and with other stakeholders to further raise awareness about the role they can play – and increase their engagement – in addressing Africa’s demographic challenges.
The inaugural dialogue event in April 2022 explored the concept of the demographic dividend and the potential role of faith actors as partners of governments and international organizations – locally, nationally and across the African region – to address demographic challenges and open the window of demographic opportunities. Forthcoming dialogues will focus on a variety of topics related to demographic change, such as family planning, girls’ education, and employment opportunities for young people.
Study: Faith in action – How religious organisations facilitate demographic change in West Africa.