In the discourse on Malawi’s development trajectory, there is little mention, if any, about the demographic dividend that is inherent in the country’s predominantly youthful population. About 70 percent of the population in Malawi is under 30 and, according to the 2014 Malawi Youth Data Sheet, about two thirds of the population is below 25. Projections put Malawi’s population at 26 million by 2030, pointing to further expansion of the base of the country’s population pyramid over the next couple of decades.
While this sounds alarming and is no doubt suggestive of decisive policy action to grapple with the whole gamut of factors behind, and implications of this population dynamic, such an overwhelmingly youthful population also holds in it the promise of a better and prosperous Malawi.
The foregoing proposition may sound counterintuitive but young people embody infinite possibilities, and these possibilities can be leveraged to improve our lot as a country over the long haul. It is clearly imperative that we invest in young people to leverage their potential and better equip them to confront the defining challenges of our time.
Fortunately, programmes such as the Global Health Corps (GHC) are already working to build a movement of diverse, young professionals working to improve the way global health solutions are conceptualised, designed and delivered. GHC trains and grooms motivated young people to become the next generation of leaders and imparts them the skills to be effective advocates for change in their community.
Since 2009, 51 young Malawians have participated in the GHC, learning and working with other young leaders from around the world to reduce health inequities. Additionally, nearly 70 fellows from both Malawi and the US have served here in Malawi—working with partners such as the Art and Global Health Centre Africa, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Mothers2Mothers and the Malawi Ministry of Health.
These fellows have made enormous contribution to the health of our nation, and have been instrumental in the success of the organisations where they have worked. Currently, 26 fellows, half of whom are Malawian, are serving with 10 local organisations. And once these young leaders complete their year of service, many choose to stay and work here in Malawi. About 20 GHC alumni currently work in senior leadership positions in our country, serving as the next generation of Malawian leaders.
In writing this, I acknowledge how much I have benefitted from my involvement with the Global Health Corps. During my fellowship year, I worked at Lighthouse Trust, a WHO centre of excellence for integrated HIV and Aids programmes, in Lilongwe. Through the fellowship, I became exposed to a whole new world through my new found connections with youth from across the world who share my passion for improving the well-being of the under-served.
I hope that more young people in our nation will choose to pick opportunities such as GHC and continue building a critical mass that will shape a new direction for the nation. Applications for the 2016-2017 class of GHC fellows are now open, and GHC is looking for applicants aged 30 and under, with an undergraduate degree to join us.
Everyone has a role in this movement for health equity and social justice in Malawi and beyond. Learn more about your potential role at www.ghcorps.org/apply.