opinionBy Joaquim Chissano
As the African Union (AU) prepares to celebrate its 50th Anniversary at a time when consultations on what will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the post-2015 agenda are gathering pace, leaders and civil society alike are debating and determining future priorities that will shape the next decade of development and beyond.
When children under the age of 18 make up as much as 60% of the population in some African countries, isn't it imperative they take centre stage in the new development agenda?
When such a large and crucial constituency continues to face immense challenges in terms of neglect and exclusion, lack of access to quality basic social services such as health and education, who continue to face violence and abuse, how can we ensure that there is accelerated action and attention given to them?
It is these critical issues that a group of eminent African leaders, experts and thinkers intend to focus on when we meet for a High Level Dialogue on 21 May in Addis Ababa with a simple goal - to ensure the rights and needs of children are front and centre of the post-2015 development agenda.
The MDGs have achieved much for children, galvanizing development efforts and guiding global and national priorities.
And since their introduction in 2000, Africa has witnessed much progress - from some impressive reductions in child mortality, to greatly improved primary school enrolment.
But there remains an urgent and unfinished agenda for Africa's children.
As long as the number of preventable deaths remain unacceptably high; as long as some 40% of children suffer chronic malnutrition; as long as children are excluded from secondary education, especially girls; as long as a rapidly growing young population lack skills development and employment opportunities; as long as children continue to face daily violence, abuse and exploitation in the home, at school, in their communities and across borders - this is an agenda that requires specific, targeted and comprehensive commitments going forward to not only build on the past progress that has been made but accelerate action.
On the eve of the AU celebrating its 50th anniversary, and as Heads of State prepare to agree Africa's Common Position on the post-2015 agenda, as a continent we can look back proudly on its past stewardship.
But it must also seize the chance - indeed the imperative - to use this moment to show extraordinary foresight, leadership, vision and commitment to ensure children are front and centre in the post-2015 agenda.
It must be an agenda that tackles children's realities and their potential. So for the sake of development - human, social and economic - it is time to put children and their best interests at the centre of development, nowhere more so than in Africa.
Joaquim is the Chairperson of the International Board of Trustees of The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), having served since June 8, 2012. He has long been at the forefront of Mozambican political life. He was Prime Minister of the transitional government that led up to independence in 1975, and thereafter was Minister for Foreign Affairs under independent Mozambique's First President, Samora Machel.