Harnessing Africa’s Demographic Dividend by Investing in Youth
On 19 September, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, took part in the High Level meeting on Strengthening Partnership to Accelerate Africa’s demographic dividend – Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend project (SWEDD), jointly organized by the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank, at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The event took place in the presence of the President du Burkina Faso, HE Mr Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, along with Heads of State and of Government from Benin, HE Patrice Talon, Central African Republic, HE Faustin-Archange Touadera, Cote D'Ivoire, HE Alassane Ouattara, Liberia, HE Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, Malawi, Peter Mutharika, Niger, HE Mahamadou Issoufou, Senegal, HE Macky Sall, Uganda, HE Yoweri Museveni, and HE Idriss Deby, President of Chad, Chair of African Union. Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway also participated.
The event brought together the six countries implementing the SWEDD project, as well as those of other interested countries, senior officials from UNFPA, the World Bank, the United Nations and imminent personalities from international institutions and the private sector.
The goal was to examine the progress of the implementation of SWEDD, to explore new forms of strategic partnerships to enhance the impact of this initiative on the lives of people, and to consider its extension to other African countries to ensure they also benefit from the demographic dividend.
“Making the most of Africa's Demographic dividend means empowering young people, especially girls and women," said the President du Burkina Faso. "We need new youth policies along with more inclusive education, including comprehensive sexuality education."
The UNESCO Director-General underlined the important timing of the event.
“This comes at the right time – one year after agreement on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” she declared. “To succeed we must focus on accelerators of success. This must start on the benches of school”.
“Education brings sustainability to all development,” said Irina Bokova. “Achieving the education commitments by 2030 could prevent 3.5 million child deaths from 2040-2050 in sub-Saharan Africa alone.”
The Director-General focused especially on the need for empowering girls “to nurture a new generation of leaders, to sustain families, entire societies.”
She underlined the many examples of innovation across the region, which are vital to harness the demographic dividend -- notably in education and literacy, as recognised by UNESCO.
“Deepening partnerships is crucial, to empower young people, who must be at the centre of development as Africa's greatest asset," said Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund.
“To catalyse new development, we need new policy dialogues and multistakeholder partnerships, for new jobs, new opportunities for young people," said Mr Keith Hansen, Vice-President, Human Development, World Bank.
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