The 3rd China-Africa Conference on Population Development kicked off in Accra yesterday.
The three-day event is on the theme '25 years of International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD): Population data management and universal access to reproductive health as key drivers of sustainable development.'
It is aimed at providing a platform to brainstorm on how to improve effective population data management in Africa and deepen South-South cooperation in reproductive health and development, among others.
Participation countries include Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria, host Ghana, Niger, La Cote d'Iviore, China and development partners.
Opening the conference on behalf of the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia in Accra yesterday, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng said the availability of timely and reliable population data was indispensable for planning, monitoring and evaluating of programmes and measuring progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Demographic and health surveys in many African countries, he said, had generated reliable information on fertility, family planning, infant and child mortality, maternal and child health and nutrition.
He explained that in Ghana, however, other surveys such as the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, the Ghana Maternal Health Survey, the Ghana Living Standards Survey and the Ghana Labour Force Survey had all provided important population data for planning and decision making.
"We all know that collection and analysis of data is an expensive, rigorous and time consuming exercise so we must continue to find innovative ways to improve data production systems, in particular civil registration systems and the use of administrative data," he added.
According to Prof. Frimpong-Boateng, the ICPD had guided development interventions at different levels, with significant results, adding that globally, there was a significant reduction in poverty, declines in child and maternal mortality, increased life expectancy and improved access to education among others.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng expressed gratitude to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and organisers of the conference for creating a platform for countries to share best practices and foster partnership to further enhance their achievements.
The Minister of Planning, Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, on his part indicated that the lack of access to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and information contributed to high levels of morbidity and mortality for largely preventable SRH problems, particularly in developing countries.
He explained that restrictions on information about sexuality, contraception and healthcare, limited people's ability to make choices regarding their sexuality and Reproductive Healthcare Rights (SRHR).
The minister stated that while the relevance of reproductive health had been acknowledged in international agreements, some countries did not consider sexual health as a legitimate health issue.
This, he said, often prevented such countries from receiving global recognition, thereby resulting in fall of global support for SRH services, with the exception of HIV.
In her address, the Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr Natalia Kanem said the SDGs could not be achieved without ensuring that all individuals enjoyed their dignity and human rights.
Since its launch two years ago, the China-Africa conference, she said, had prominently featured SDGs and the demographic dividend among its themes, adding that this year's session would explore universal sexual and reproductive health as a driver of the SDGs.
She explained that China's experience of economic growth and sustainable development was unique in terms of scale, reforms and governance, saying as the world's second largest economy, the country had experienced an annual growth rate as high as 9.5 per cent over the past four decades.
"There are quite a number of lessons to learn from the Chinese experience, which vividly illustrates the opportunities that can be created by the demographic transition.
"If combined with appropriate economic reforms, investment, social development policies and stability, this can be an important source of sustainable economic growth," Dr Kanem added.