The 5th Africa Youth and Governance conference to dialogue on expanding opportunities for the youth to contribute fully to Africa’s development, was on Tuesday launched in Accra.
The conference to be held from 8th to 10th August 2013 at the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Centre would be attended by delegates from 35 African countries, African Diaspora and European Youth Parliament.
The conference will be on the theme: “Youth Inclusive Governance: Harnessing Africa’s Demographic Potential”.
Mr Seth Oteng, Executive Director of Youth Bridge Foundation, said Africa had been described as the most youthful continent in the world with over 60 per cent of the population below the age of 35 years.
He said the increasing number of youth in Africa presented both an opportunity and challenges and in many instances policy makers had been overwhelmed by challenges of unemployment, high rural populations, access to education and delivery of basic services like health and water.
“There is the need for African countries to find solutions by transforming the high illiteracy rate to a functionally literate society, addressing the challenges of the disable youth and ensuring that the youth do not emulate the Arab springs model of change,” he said.
Dr Philomena Nyarko, Acting Government Statistician, said Africa had the second fastest growing population and there were challenging issues regarding the continued high fertility rates and rising youth population.
She said reaping a demographic dividend depended on factors such as rapid and steady decline in child bearing, quality education and stable economic conditions and urged the youth to ignore early marriages and focus on education.
She said health outcomes for both mother and child were improved if pregnancy was delayed until an age when the young woman was prepared for child bearing, adding that Africa could reduce population growth by 15-20 per cent if early marriages were delayed.
“If the rate of fertility declines in Africa, it will eventually influence the rate of growth in the working age population and consequently lead to a reduction in the dependency burden and improved living standards”, she said.
She, however, called for the right policies and programmes to be put in place to tap the full potential of Africa’s young population to help promote economic development.
Dr Anthony Cudjoe, Chief Executive Officer of Emerging Leaders Africa, advised the youth to resist any attempt to be used by self-seeking leaders to cause violence but used their energies to the development of the continent.