28 January 2014. The January edition of BBC Africa Debate comes from Malawi, exploring the opportunities and risks associated with Africa’s young population. The BBC’s Nkem Ifejika and Nomsa Maseko will co-host the discussion in Blantyre, which will ask if the recent population explosion in Africa can be used to propel economic growth – or if it could backfire.

The average age in sub-Saharan Africa is still under 20, the youngest of any region in the world. The population of the continent will double by 2050. With nearly half of its population under the age of 15, Malawi is typical of sub-Saharan Africa.

Some economists see this youthful population as a major opportunity for Africa – especially compared with the ageing populations of Europe and North America. But others point out the risks of such rapid population growth – and the potential pitfalls of having too many young people with not enough to do. Security experts often link a youthful population with instability – citing civil conflicts across West Africa in the 1990s as an example, or recent movements such as Boko Haram in Nigeria.

BBC Africa Debate producer, Mary Morgan, says: “Some of the fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa, but much of this growth has been jobless – and those aged 16-24 make up 60% of the unemployed. It seems there is also a mismatch between the skills being taught in schools and universities and those required in the workplace. Many young people also feel excluded from mainstream politics and disillusioned with their leaders. In this debate, we want to give young people the opportunity to share these experiences – and ask questions of those with the ability and responsibility to help Africa’s youth realise their potential.”

BBC Africa Debate will bring together a studio audience of around 150 people including Malawi government ministers, politicians, economists, population experts, students, entrepreneurs, unemployed young people, youth leaders and journalists. Audiences can also join the debate via social media, with conversations on Twitter (#bbcafricadebate) and on Facebook and Google+ (search for BBC Africa).

This edition of BBC Africa Debate will be recorded on Thursday 30 January between 10 am and 12 noon local time at the College of Medicine Sports Complex, Blantyre. It will be broadcast by BBC World Service at 19.00 GMT on Friday 31 January and will be repeated at 13.00 GMT on Sunday 2 February. The debate will also be online at bbcafrica.com.

For more information and media invitations to the programme recording, please contact:

BBC Global News Communications – Lala Najafova lala.najafova@bbc.co.uk

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