Addressing inequalities across all sectors in Africa necessitates that the continent eliminates disparities in access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the attendant consequences of lack of access – unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortion, maternal deaths – and gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation.
This was said by Robert T. Chakanda, Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Planning and Economy in a discussion on the Centrality of Population Dynamics to Sustainable Development held in the margins of the 5th Africa Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD) Wednesday.
“We also need to prevent child, early and forced marriage and provide young people, particularly adolescent girls, with quality education that includes comprehensive sexuality education,” he told participants.
Mr. Chakanda said the continent also needs to maximize the benefits of the demographic dividend by investing in the empowerment, health, education and employment of its young people as well as by creating opportunities and a supportive environment for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship for young people to access jobs and realize their full potential.
Addressing inequalities also means that Africa needs to empower young people with the information and skills to make informed choices about their lives, to enable them to stay healthy, free from STIs, HIV and Non-Communicable Diseases; and ensure the availability and use of accurate, disaggregated data for decision making to ensure no one is left behind.
For her part, Economic Commission for Africa’s Director of Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division, Thokozile Ruzvidzo, in a speech read on her behalf, said population dynamics remained central to Africa’s sustainable development, as articulated in the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as various continental, regional and national development frameworks.
She said outcomes of the 5-year review of the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD) in October 2018 equally underscored the pivotal role demographic intelligence and population dynamics play in ensuring achievement of inclusive socioeconomic development, aspired prosperity, peace and well-being on the continent.
“Continued population growth in may low-income African countries, driven by high fertility, will make it harder to eradicate poverty and inequality, combat hunger and nutrition, invest in education and health, and improve access to basic services,” she said.
Ms. Ruzvidzo added that development programmes on the continent need to be scaled up, not only to cover current shortfall in service provision but also to prepare for the increased demand posed by the growing population.
“There is clear evidence that the successes of the past years cannot be sustained unless governments tackle inequalities that hurt the poorest and most marginalized,” she said.
“Laws must be passed and implemented; budgets must be allocated to protect those who are affected by poverty and discrimination, including women, people living with disabilities, the youth and people in rural areas.”
As African countries report achievements, constraints, lessons learned and opportunities through the 2019 Voluntary National Reviews (VNR), the side event also provided participants a chance to consider opportunities and implications of demographic diversity on the continent to the sustainable development goals.