Measuring the Greatness of a Country by the Quality of its Peoples’ Lives: UNFPA Executive Director to African Leaders

30 June 2011
Author: UNFPA

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea—UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin told a panel of African leaders and youth representatives that “the greatness of a country is measured by the quality of its peoples’ lives” and outlined some proposals to uplift millions of African youths from unemployment, poverty and misery.

Dr. Osotimehin was speaking as a panellist a high-level debate on “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development”, the theme of this year’s African Union Summit, which opened in Malabo this morning.

Speaking right after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, but before several other African leaders, Dr. Osotimehin said: “the burning issues confronting our continent are the high rate of youth unemployment and underemployment.”

“Today, 7 to 10 million young people enter the labour market each year, but they face one of the highest levels of unemployment in the world,” the UNFPA leader said. “Even those who have the skills and the will to work find closed doors when they knock. Others lack marketable skills for today’s global economy.”

Dr. Osotimehin acknowledged the progress made by African countries towards universal enrollment in primary schools, quickly adding that the same could not be said of secondary and tertiary schools, particularly for girls.

He referred to studies that show that approximately 5 million young people aged 15-24 were living with HIV, with most of them in Africa.

“It is our failure that we could not prevent this, but even worse that 72 per cent of those youth living with HIV in Africa are young women and this burden further exacerbates an already high maternal mortality ratio”, Dr. Osotimehin added.

The Executive Director identified the enforcement of laws to protect the rights of young people as a good entry point for pro-youth actions at country level, suggesting that policies that instituted youth employment quota, in both the public and private sectors, could also be considered.

He also suggested the inclusion of the implementation of the African Youth Decade Plan of Action in the African Peer Review mechanisms, to ensure accountability for youth development.

The African Youth Charter was drafted with UNFPA support and adopted by African leaders in 2006. But only 26 countries have ratified it. Hence, Dr. Osotimehin urged timely implementation of the African Youth Decade Plan of Action, with emphasis on medium-term priorities.

On a broader issue, Dr. Osotimehin said Africa needed a major shift towards production industries that added value to its vast natural resources. Developing such industries, he said, would massively help create badly needed jobs. This is an urgent action that could transform Africa’s economies, he concluded.



Equatorial Guinea
Population : 1.4 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24

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