Demographics, entrepreneurship and technology: defining the frontiers of future economies,” is the main theme of the 41st IASP World Conference on Science Parks and Areas of Innovation, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, on 25-27 September 2024.

As the conference returns to Africa for the first time since 2008, the theme has particular significance.

It will explore the role played by science parks and areas of innovation in empowering regions such as Africa and Asia to harness the potential of their burgeoning youth demographic, entrepreneurship, and technology for economic growth. And it will also address the challenges posed by a global population that is steadily ageing.

In this context, the theme calls upon us to reflect on critical components of collaboration across the world to ensure that there is a sufficient talent pool, innovation, and technology base, to sustain the global economy.

Youth surge and demographic shift

The United Nations (UN) projects a significant demographic shift: by 2030, an estimated 1.3 billion individuals worldwide will fall within the age bracket of 15-24. This youth surge, representing vast potential, is set to reshape the global landscape.

Regions with the greatest youth populations are primed for significant opportunities, from expanding their share of the global workforce to fostering innovation, driving economic growth, and enlarging domestic consumer markets. However, the UN’s projections also foresee a contrasting future, with one in six individuals expected to be over 65 years old by 2050.

In regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Northern America, and Oceania, youth populations have plateaued, signalling the onset of ageing demographics and diminishing workforces.

This demographic shift threatens to shrink domestic markets in these areas. In stark contrast, Asia and Africa are experiencing a youth population boom. Africa boasts the world’s youngest population, with 40% below the age of 15, and this trend is anticipated to endure well beyond 2050. While this demographic dividend promises growth in labour supply, innovation, and consumer potential, it also presents unique challenges.

The need for innovation and technology transfer

The recent coronavirus pandemic has also highlighted the need for more distributed/devolved global manufacturing and supply chains, amid a growing number of multinational corporations which struggle to survive and the necessity to create shared value in markets where they have traditionally focused on sales and distribution.

There is rising need for innovation and technology transfer across markets to support such manufacturing and supply chains. This calls for skilling to ensure the creation of a workforce that can work globally to also address the decline in workforce in other parts of the world.

The transition of many countries to knowledge-based economies, the intersection of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship offers new models of shared growth, based on innovative startups seeking to address emerging global challenges.

There is a strong realisation that competitiveness in the knowledge-based economies will be based on the ability to solve problems at scale, whilst creating wealth in domestic markets and employment opportunities in the world’s most youthful regions – thus focusing on shared value creation.

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Be part of the global innovation community at the 41st IASP World Conference, hosted by Konza Technopolis in Nairobi, Kenya. Engage in dynamic discussions on demographics, entrepreneurship, and technology. Secure your place today and benefit from early-bird pricing for IASP 2024 in Nairobi, available until 3 July. Don’t miss this opportunity!

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