Sep 8, 2008, 7:07 AM
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), The Gambia Government and partners on
Friday launched the African Union Road Map on Harnessing Demographic Dividend
through investment in youth at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The launching was presided over by the Women’s Affairs Minister, who is also oversees the Vice Presidency.
The launching brought together young people and youth organisations under the National Youth Council under the theme: “Capitalising on the Gambia’s Youthful Population: Reaping the benefits and diminishing the burden.”
In her launching statement, the Women’s Affairs Minister who also doubles as the overseer the office of the Vice President, Aja Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang, said as was being experienced in most African countries, The Gambia has over the years witnessed a rapid rate of population growth.
The current population is projected at 1.9 million and is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 3.1 per cent, she said.
She said the most important statistic may be that 42.7 per cent and 64 per cent of the population are below the ages of 15 and 24 years respectively.
The youthful nature of the population is indicative of the population continuing to grow at a rapid rate in the foreseeable future, she stated, emphasing that the youthful age structure of the population has both social and economic ramifications.
“Government is aware of the disproportionate effect of unemployment among young people and some of the negative social consequences,” she added.
For her part, Perpetua Katepa Kalala, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, said the United Nations systems in The Gambia stand committed to supporting the Government in its development agenda set out in the draft National Development Plan.
“UN has multilateral, universal and neutral characteristics with ability to respond to development needs in a flexible manner that ensures effective and efficient partnerships to support member states.”
She assured: “We stand ready to support the different global and regional frameworks for action like the Africa Union Agenda 2063, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).”
In The Gambia, she said, all the different agencies and programmes have a specific focus within their different mandates to meet the above commitment.
Also speaking at the launching, Kunle Adeniyi UNFPA Gambia country office Chief of Operation, said the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), as well as other United Nations partners and development agencies agreed to, among other things to develop the road map.
The roadmap identifies key deliverables, milestones and actions to expedite the implementation of the continental initiative on Demographic Dividend for Africa, he divulged.
According to him, the roadmap was developed through a consultative process of stakeholders and was conceived bearing in mind the urgent necessity to transform the potential of Africa’s large youth population into a demographic dividend, through proper management and the right investments.
He said a large cohort of youth offers a potentially rich resource for developing countries as more people should naturally be available to work, but only if that resource could be effectively harnessed.
He said there are two key pre-conditions to realising the demographic dividend. The first was to create a dynamic economy that would serve as an engine of job creation and provide productive employment for large cohorts of youth.
The second pre-condition was a strong commitment of resources to the health and education of youth so that they are prepared to compete in a global economy.
Henry Gomez, Minister of Youth and Sports, speaking on the occasion, stressed that the bulging population of young people in The Gambia poses development challenges but could also be transformed into an opportunity for effective contribution to national development.
He emphasised that without the relevant investments in youth to realise their full potentials, young people could easily be exposed to vices such as forced migration, radicalisation and violent extremism.
“We have witnessed the massive migration of young people from the country to Europe using perilous routes and many young lives have already been lost in the process of trying to reach Europe.”
The Gambia, he said, could reap the benefits of a bulging young population by investing in youth empowerment programmes.To harness the demographic dividend of a youthful population would require effective investments in health, empowerment, education and employment of youth through public and private sector involvement.’ He concluded.