North Africa faces 'demographic tsunami': Bildt

29th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The countries of North Africa face a "demographic tsunami" of restless young people that must be met by democratic reform, Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt warned Saturday.

Amid ongoing popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, Bildt said all the countries in the region would have to find ways to satisfy the demands of growing and increasingly frustrated young populations.

"There's a demographic tsunami to the south of the Mediterranean that can over time only be met by sustained democratic and economic reforms," the veteran diplomat told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"32 percent of the population of Egypt is under 15 years of age. The median age is 23 years. If you compare it with Tunisia the corresponding figures are 23 percent and 29 years there," he explained.

"These are extremely young societies, demanding concerning the future, and their demands for jobs, for prospects for the future cannot be met by systems that are seen as closed, be that in economic or be that in political terms.

"This is process that lies ahead of all of the countries in the region, one way or another. They're very different but the demographic tsunami is something that is common to all of them," he warned.

As Bildt and fellow members of the world political and business elite met in this Swiss ski resort, thousands of demonstrators were pouring onto the streets of Cairo to demand President Hosni Mubarak stand down.

© 2011 AFP

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