Addis Ababa — Africa should use its rising and young population as a means of rapidly growing its economy, said Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Mr. Abdalla Hamdok.
At the opening of a three-day meeting of population experts on the continent in Addis Ababa today, Mr. Hamdok said the continent has the youngest population in the world, which gives it a "potential resource and a great force for economic and political change." He called on Africa to strive for lower fertility and mortality rates to build on its current strong economic growth rate.
The continent's population is projected to reach 1.2 billion in 2014 from 703 million in 1994 when the International conference on Population and Development took place in Cairo, according to Mr. Hamdok. But African countries can only enjoy this demographic dividend if the people are provided with quality health care, education and decent employment, said Ms. Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in her own contribution.
On the girl child, she said Africa must make efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation/cutting, prohibit early/forced marriage and all forms of sexual and gender-based violence which hinders her development.
"We must involve all men - fathers, brothers, husbands - in the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment."
The ICPD Beyond 2014 review process provides a unique opportunity to forge a new regional position to address the persistent and emerging challenges of population and development, said Mr.Hamdok.
Ministers responsible for population affairs on the continent meet this week from October 3 to October 4 in Addis Ababa.