Africa: The Time is Now!!

17 February 2016
Dr. Osotimehin with the First Couple of Ghana and other African First Ladies

The UN Under-Secretary General and UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin has asked African governments to empower and educate the population because the time is now. “Any more delay and we will miss the boat” he emphasized. Dr Osotimehin was delivering the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR) on 10 February 2016 under the theme “Realizing Demographic Dividend in Africa: the Critical Importance of Adolescents and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”. The conference was held in Accra Ghana under the distinguished patronage of the First Lady Mrs. Lordina Mahama and coordinated locally by the Children and Youth in Broadcasting: the Curious Minds.

Dr. Osotimehin expressed his deep appreciation to African Heads of States and Governments for their leadership in continuously keeping the demographic dividend high on the international, continental and national agenda. He said the global 2030 Agenda and continental frameworks, such as the African Union Agenda 2063, the Common African Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development Beyond 2014, all speak to the values and vision of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action. The demographic dividend offers value for development because it highlights how much we need to integrate our work to make sustainable progress. The integrated policy approach required to achieve a demographic dividend offers a valuable entry point for implementing the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, Dr. Osotimehin, concluded.

H.E. Mrs. Lordina Mahama in her welcome address said the conference is of great significance because it is about the first major dialogue taking place at the continental level in 2016 since the onset of both the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Africa Agenda 2063. She therefore urged each and everyone to play their expected roles and work hard since that is the only way Ghana and for that matter Africa can get to the right destination everyone wants.

Giving a goodwill message at the conference, a representative of the Africa Union said, Africa cannot underestimate the role of Ghana in the Africa Union. Similarly, they cannot minimize the positive contributions of African First Ladies to the social progress of the continent over the years. The representative therefore proposed that the First Ladies of the continent consider expanding the title of the First Ladies work on HIV since they have been working assiduously in other areas. He said one area of great concern which “Her Excellencies” must take up is domestic health financing. Domestic health financing is key to Africa’s development and the continent cannot afford to continue to depend heavily on donors for the health of its people.

A young lady from the University of Ghana, Legon, Ms Akosua Agyapong said all young girls from Angola to Zimbabwe want to be like Her Excellencies Lordina Mahama, Margaret Kenyatta, and other First Ladies. She asked that they be sensitized, mentored and empowered so they can be worthy ambassadors. Ms. Agyapong said the inclusion and empowerment of young people and girls is key in rolling out the SDGs. 

Performing the ceremonial rites for the official opening of the conference, HE John Dramani Mahama, the President of the Republic of Ghana, said the issue of demographic dividend should be a matter of priority for all sectors and not for a particular sector or agency. According to the President the demographic dividend is a crosscutting agenda and likened it to the case of HIV and AIDS where it was moved from the health sector and made a multi-sectorial issue before real progress was made. He promised that Ghana will continue to be the beacon of hope and example for the rest of Africa to emulate in investing in young people for the realization of the demographic dividend. He said currently Ghana spends 50% of her resources on education and health and applauded UNFPA for all the technical and financial support,   noting that the country is happy about the partnership. He was full of praise for the young people, especially the Curious Minds, for coordinating such a huge conference and said it is a demonstration of what young people can do when given the opportunity. First Ladies from Kenya, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia, Chad, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and other dignitaries including UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador Ms. Catarina Furtado attended the conference.