In conjunction with the International Conference on Family Planning in Kigali, Rwanda, earlier this week, three major donors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have announced commitments to family planning initiatives.
At the conference, the United Kingdom's Department for International Development announced an investment of £200 million ($260 million) in support of Women's Integrated Sexual Health (WISH), a new program aimed at ensuring that couples in some of the world's poorest countries have access to life-saving voluntary contraception. In addition, the Canadian government announced that it will invest up to C$104.4 million ($78.8 million) in projects that take a comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive rights and health, including universal access to family planning and access to safe and legal abortion. And the Gates Foundation announced the launch of a family planning fund that includes $15 million for a community matching fund and $3 million for technical assistance efforts. To be managed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the project will support family planning efforts in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
The announcements complemented a roundtable discussion focused on the critical role of family planning in achieving the "demographic dividend," which experts define as an increase in economic growth resulting from a shift in a country's population age structure. According to experts participating in the panel, as health outcomes improve and more women gain access to contraceptives, birth rates fall and the population of workers increases while the number of dependents decreases. Paired with the right social and economic investments, countries can position themselves to realize sustained economic growth.
"The demographic dividend refers to gains in economic growth and changes in the population age structure when we have a larger working-age population and fewer dependents," said Rwandan minister of finance and economic planning Uzziel Ndagijimana. "For this workforce to generate a dividend, it must be well-equipped with the right knowledge and skills [including family planning] to be productive [and] help the economy grow."