Addis Ababa — Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn today urged African countries to make efforts to implement programmes designed to increase the population of productive workforce so as to speed up economic growth and higher living standards on the continent.
Opening the African Regional Conference on Population and Development in Addis Ababa, Mr. Dessalegn, who is also Chairman of the African Union, said there is a gap between population and development policies and implementation that needs to be bridged if the continent is to benefit economically from its young population.
"All stakeholders and partners in Africa have a role to play in scaling up efforts to tackle these challenges," Mr. Dessalegn said.
The demographic dividend and sustainable development can be achieved if African countries address inequalities and social exclusion of marginalized groups such as women and girls, he said. "The emphasis must be on equitable access for all persons to quality health and reproductive health services, quality and comprehensive health education and skills development, as well as decent and productive employment."
Also speaking, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, called for continued investment in the African people in order to break the cycle of poverty, income disparities, gender equality, food insecurity and conflict. On harmful practices that affect women and girls, he said it was unacceptable in the 21st century that girls are still subject to genital mutilation and child marriage.
"Of the 10 countries worldwide with the highest rates of child marriage, eight of them are in Africa," said Dr. Osotimehin. "Pregnancy complications remain the leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15 and 19 in our region. This must stop."
The conference is to review the agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994 and agree on a new action plan for the continent, he said. Ministers responsible for population matters, experts, young people and civil society groups are attending the conference which ends on October 4.
Issued by: ECA External Communications and Media Relations Section PO Box 3001 Addis Ababa Ethiopia Tel: +251 11 551 5826 E-mail: ecainfo[at]uneca[dot]org www.uneca.org