The Africa CSO Coalition on Population and Development (ACCPD) has called on the African Union Commission and African Union Member states to make supportive policies on delivering the demographic dividend a priority for the continent. Speaking at the first session, during the 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights, a representative of the ACCPD reaffirmed that Africa has a once in a life-time opportunity to convert its huge potential lying in its youth bulge into positive social and economic outcomes.
The following is a brief summary of the session.
Session Title: Africa’s Demographic Potential; Policy Actions Needed to Realise the Dividend and Empower Young People
The session was co-hosted by the Africa CSO Coalition on Population and Development (ACCPD) and the Programme Global Alliances for the ICPD at Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The panel session aimed at depicting the regional policy environment around the issues that lay out the foundation to deliver on the demographic dividend in Africa. Following guiding questions, the presenter and discussants made statements informed by their professional experiences and perspectives.
The session was opened by Ms. Catherine Nyambura, ACCPD representative working with Dandelion, Kenya. The moderator was Robert Kasenene from the United Nations Association of Tanzania, a member of the ACCPD.
Main Statement: Prudence Ngwenya, Senior Policy Officer, Youth Division, African Union Commission
The main presentation gave an outline of the key policy instruments on the African continent, pertinent to socio-economic issues critical in the demographic dividend discussion. Prudence noted that the African Union Commission has made succinct commitments on youth development, as defined by the African Youth Charter and the African Decade on Youth Development (2009-2018).
She further noted that regional and global political commitments, such as the newly adopted 2030 Agenda, the ICPD Programme of Action, and numerous other declarations are now in place and it is critical that the continent dedicates itself to their implementation and ensure mechanisms to monitor their implementation. One example she gave was the regional Agenda 2063, which has ambitious goals and foresees sustainable development with the people at its centre – a development that serves the people and empowers people to be the agents to work towards good outcomes. Click here to read the statement.
Dr. Grace Gyimah Boateng – Curious Minds Ghana/ ACCPD
Responding to the main presenter’s statements, the first discussant – a young person herself – argued that Africa is not lacking in policies on health, education and gender. What is lacking is implementation. In order for young people to benefit from the policies laid out, investments in health and education are crucial. To realise the demographic dividend, young people should not only be the target group, but should be given the opportunity to engage, beginning at the decision-making table. This way it is possible to empower young people, by allowing them to make and learn from their mistakes and encouraging growth.
Dr. Grace’s statement emphasised the need to empower young girls and according them leadership opportunities. Sharing her own story, she particularly emphasised the need to ensure there are spaces for young girls to engage in their own development.
Remmy Shawa – Sonke Gender Justice/ ESA Commitment High Level Group
Remmy Shawa argued that empowering youth and ensuring meaningful participation requires access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and can also foster economic development. One instrument that has proven to be crucial in achieving better results in SRH is comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). He drew on experiences of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Ministerial Commitment (2013) to promote CSE and adolescent and youth friendly health services for HIV prevention among young people and adolescents. Other goals of the ESA Commitment are to reduce maternal mortality and improve overall health status.
The ESA Ministerial Commitment was led by UNAIDS with the support of UNESCO and other UN agencies, and a number of bilateral and civil society partners, including youth organisations, the governments of Germany and Sweden. He noted further that CSE is often seen as controversial and is misinterpreted, but in fact studies show that CSE can delay sexual debut/ activity, it enables young people to make informed decisions about their health and creates positive attitudes towards gender issues and reducing gender-based violence.
Nathalie Nkoume – IPPF ARO
Nathalie continued statements from the discussants by emphasising that for successful implementation of policies, it is key to ensure they are translated into programmes. It is critical that programmes have measures for monitoring and follow-up included in the programme design. Accountability mechanisms have to be in place to ensure the political commitment pertinent to delivering on the demographic dividend. The responsibility to hold national governments accountable should also lie at the local level. Civil society should build up community voices who can stand up for their rights and represent their needs and demands.
Fiona Kaikai – UNFPA Sierra Leone
Rounding off the discussants, Fiona Kaikai noted that it is important that the scope, size and dynamics of the population at all levels is known to those who make development plans. States should be supported to collect and analyse disaggregated demographic data. Demographic data are not mere numbers, they are figures that represent every person, including every young person. These are critical in delivering the right policies and investments to unlock population potentials.
In closing, the moderator thanked all participants for engaging in the session. He noted that ACSHR was a space to share experiences and give an opportunity to organisations that do not have access to similar spaces to share on their work. He noted further that it is not a space to problematise issues, but rather share solutions. He commended the speakers for their energy and for sharing their expertise on the subject matter and called on participants to adequately utilize the space at the conference.
Robert thanked ACCPD and GIZ for coming together to organise the dialogue and welcomed participants to visit the ACCPD website for more updates.