Cape Town — Africa has the largest generation of young people in its history and the calls are growing louder for a Millennium Development Goal, MDG, and specific goal for young people. And the call for this is growing stronger.
It is estimated that nearly one in three people living in Sub-Sahara Africa, or about 297 million, is between the ages of 10 and 24. The World’s Youth 2013 Data sheet compiled by the Population Reference Bureau said by 2050, this age group is projected to double to about 561 million. With these statistics it is no wonder there is a growing chorus of people that are calling for specific MDG for young people.
With less than 750 days to the end of the millennium development goals, there is a growing chorus of people asking for youth to have its own development goal in the post 2015 agenda.
Addressing the Ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the17th International Conference of HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs) in Africa, ICASA in Cape Town this week, UNFPA’s Dr Julitta Onabanjo said it was important to support young people.
“There should be a commitment that young people are at the centre of youth development.”
With former Botswana President, Festus Mogae and other influential African Ministers in the audience, Onabanjo used the opportunity to ask the question: "As we are defining the post 2015 development agenda, you must advocate for a youth goal?"
If we look at the statistics for young people, it is perhaps time for young people and the issues affecting them to take center stage. With Africa’s young people being in the majority, growing unemployment and calls for improved education, a development goal would ensure youth issues are not renegaded to the sidelines but is taken seriously by policy makers and governments.
“Young people if given access to education and decent health care can make informed decisions,” said Gogontlejang Phaladi, a youth activist from Botswana.
South African health care activist, Lungi Kweyame, echoed this sentiment.
“If young people have access to information they can make informed decisions, with the right knowledge you can take care of yourself”.
At the recent African Regional Conference on Population and Development youth pre-conference in Addis Ababa young people called on governments to also renew their commitments and implement the allocation of 15% of national budgets on health with specific allocation towards sexual and reproductive programmes for all young people.
“Put young people at the center, - a youth development goal should form a part of the post 2015 agenda and this will speak to the issues of employment and creating safe places for vulnerable young people” said Onabanjo.
If there is a clear and specific development goal on youth these commitments would have to be adhered to and could give the issue growing importance.
The Population Reference Bureau Youth unemployment remained a barrier to Sub-Sahara’s development. Some of the highest rates on the continent are in Southern Africa, where 51 percent of young women and 43 percent of young men are unemployed.
If young people are at the center of receiving better education, it is inevitable that the workforce would become larger and better-educated and huge potential for economic growth and development.
Better livelihoods and access to healthcare would decrease the chances of contracting HIV/Aids. Better livelihoods would support better health outcomes.
UNFPA says, of the 6,300 people newly infected with HIV each day, almost 40 per cent are young people aged 15-24, the majority of them young women. Between 2005 and 2012, HIV-related deaths among adolescents increased by 50 per cent, while the global number of AIDS-related deaths fell by 30 per cent.
Zambia’s First lady, Dr Christine Kaseba said she would certainly support such a goal.
“As a Doctor I have seen what poor health can do to young people. It will be an important post MDG goal. We have to focus on young people and consider the form and target it should be. We know young people want access to education. How do we take this forward so that it becomes a reality?”
Certainly food for thought for leaders as they define the post 2015 development agenda.