Realizing the demographic dividend in Africa

African leaders are gearing up to realize the demographic dividend in Africa. John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana, opened the 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights in Accra on 8 February 2016. The five-day conference gathered some 1 000 high-level experts, including African women and youth associations and other civil society representatives. Hosted by Curious Minds, Ghana, the theme of the event was: “Realizing demographic dividend in Africa: the critical importance of adolescents and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights”. Among the high-level representatives, Ms Lordina Mahama, Ghana’s First Lady and chair of the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), pledged to intensify OAFLA support towards the growth and progress of Africa in 2016. Speaking on behalf of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Mr Babatunde Osotimehin stressed the need for better reproductive health rights and greater protection of young girls. “Community action is required to advance the cause of equality, equity, human rights and justice by stopping early girl-child marriage”, he said. 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before their 18th birthday. On the sidelines of the event, Ghana launched a national campaign to end child marriage, joining Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger in a continental-wide campaign led by the African Union. The reflection process on how to realize Africa’s demographic dividend will be pursued throughout 2016 and will feed into the 27th Summit of the African Union which will focus on the demographic dividend.