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Harnessing Africa's Demographic Dividend

2 October 2013
Author: UNFPA

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Representatives from 52 African countries, UN agencies and around 200 civil society and youth organizations are gathered at the Regional Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014 to review the progress, challenges, gaps and emerging issues in achieving the goalsof the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action which underpins UNFPA's mandate.

Together they will develop recommendations to accelerate progress towards the goals set out in Cairo in 1994, which emphasize the needs and sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls.

Organized in partnership with the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the five-day conference, "Harnessing the Demographic Dividend: The future we want for Africa," aims for state and non-state actors to recommit themselves at the highest level to fully implement the ICPD Programme of Action.

Speaking on behalf of UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Deputy Executive Director (Management) Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen highlighted Africa’s achievements in dramatically reducing maternal, infant and child mortality since 1994. She also drew attention to the region’s response to HIV/AIDS which has led to reductions in transmission rates in almost all countries.

The region’s responsiveness to the collection of data on achievements, gaps and challenges was a sign of their ongoing commitment, she emphasized.

“The ICPD Beyond 2014 global survey, which was completed by 52 of 54 countries in the [Africa] region, shows an overwhelming commitment to the eradication of poverty; creating employment opportunities for youth; ensuring right and access to sexual and reproductive health services, including HIV prevention for young people; eliminating mother-to child transmission of HIV; increasing women’s access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services; and promoting environmental resources management,” said Ms. Albrectsen.

The survey has however highlighted the work that still needs to be done to achieve the vision of Cairo.

“Despite the gains and tremendous progress since 1994, this region faces serious challenges. Africa continues to lag behind other regions and there remain significant inequalities in access to quality services, information and education across and within countries in Africa,” she told the opening session of the conference.

She further detailed how inequality, social exclusion, gender inequity, poor governance and corruption in some areas, as well as the lack of participation by women, young people and other marginalised groups, continue to hold the development of the region back and limit its great potential for sustainable economic growth. This is all underscored by the limited research and data available.

“Africa’s current demographic transition is going to be crucial for Africa’s future. With an unprecedented youth bulge, how Africa deals with the transition could make or break the continent."

Read the complete opening statement by UNFPA Deputy Executive Director (Management) Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen.

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