The 8th Africa Population Conference in Uganda began on Monday with a call to develop programs aimed at improving opportunities for Africa’s youth.
Speaking during the official opening of the conference, Ugandan Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi said Africa’s large youth population presents a great opportunity for markets and expansion of economies.
Population scientist, Samuel Nii Ardey Codjoe, is hopeful the conference will encourage serious discussion on how Africa can benefit from its youthful population for sustainable development.
“The challenge that remains is effective implementation of various policies and actions to ensure Africa’s population, growth, structure, and distribution do not undermine efforts to reduce poverty, ensure food security, preserve the environment, and improve education, employment and health,” Codjoe said.”
He said despite the progress made since the adoption of the 1994 ICPD programme of action, considerable challenges still remained and needed to be addressed to sustain the continent’s transformation agenda.
“Today, Africa’s high child dependency burden, resulting from the continent’s youthful population estimated at 41 percent less than 15 years in 2017, is widely recognized as a major barrier to its socio-economic development.”
The four-day meeting which started on Monday comes on the heels of another global population summit which concluded in neighboring Kenya last week with leaders and government representatives renewing their commitment to population issues.
Natalia Kanem, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said at the APC that African countries need to strengthen their capacities to produce and effectively use population data and statistics.
“Compared to other regions, sub-Saharan Africa has a limited capacity for research and innovation. Yet, this is a precondition for developing a modern, smart and knowledge-based economy in the 21st century,” Kanem said in a keynote speech.
“The benefits of deliberate capacity strengthening in population research can create an Africa that is more just, more equitable, more peaceful — an Africa where every person’s potential is realized, laying a solid foundation for sustainable social and economic development,” she added.
The research community, according to Kanem, needs to adjust to new innovations and realities, and apply these to major social problems.
Participants of the meeting will discuss national, regional and continental investments to address rapid urbanization, population growth, sexual and reproductive health, technology, youth, the demographic dividend and capacity building, according to the organizers.