How can Africa’s rapidly growing population, which is expected to quadruple by 2050, and particularly huge youth population be turned to an asset and not a burden and liability has continued to raise concerns among critical stakeholders in the continent.
This is as about 2.2 billion have been estimated to be added to the global population by 2050, with more than half of this figure coming from Africa. Conscious of this population trend, the concern was at the front burner at a two-day workshop, last month, where renowned scholars and critical stakeholders, including policymakers, political leaders, human rights activists, religious leaders, youths and women groups, professionals and civil society organsations gathered to brainstorm over the challenges such population crisis could pose for the continent.
The 2-day workshop, which was organised by the Africa Progress Group (APG) and the Centre for Human Security and Dialogue of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, and facilitated by the Open Society Foundations based in the United States of America, was attended by over 450 participants, including university eggheads and members of the academia, tertiary institution and secondary school teachers and students.
The workshop, which was held onsite and virtually at the International Conference Centre, Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, Ogun State, participants compared notes and shared thoughts on how the challenges of Africa’s population could be mitigated and to redirect and refocus youth population for the advantage continent. With the theme: “Sensitisation Workshop on Human Rights and Making Africa’s Population An Asset,” participants from Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal and the Republic of Togo, among other African nations and organisations charted a way forward for the continent.
Setting the agenda of the workshop, the Coordinator of the group and the Convener, Distinguished Professor Peter Okebukola, former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), in his lead presentation, entitled: “Sensitisation and Advocacy Workshop on the Promotion of Population-Related Human Rights Activities in Africa: Making Africa’s Population An Asset,” described population management as a human rights issue. Thus, he reiterated that effective management of populations is inextricably linked with rights to education, health, food security and other dimensions of human rights.
According to renowned Professor of Science Education, the huge projected population estimates of about 2.2 billion by 2050, which will mostly be contributed by the large populations of Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda,Tanzania, Egypt, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, should be interrogated by Africans in terms of how to feed and educate the people, provide health care and shelter, and keep the environment secured.
He, therefore, added: “Clearly, the African continent has high population momentum as population growth is in excess of two per cent every year, while fertility rates are higher than in any other region of the world. “About 41 per cent of Africa’s 1.13 billion population are children below age 15 years and only about four per cent are persons older than age 65; nine of the 10 countries in the world with the highest proportion of population aged less than 15 years in 2020 are in Africa.” Against this backdrop, Okebukola expressed worry that a major concern about Africa’s rapid population growth is that employment, national infrastructure, social services, housing and health care facilities were not growing at an equally comparable rate.
Towards this end, he, however, noted that this concern was being addressed by the Africa Progress Group (APG), a consortium of past African leaders and selected leaders of the public and private sectors in Africa and the leadership of the African Union Commission. Based on the 2020 APG report on “Making Africa’s Population an Asset,” which was launched by former President Olusegun Obasanjo alongside UNFPA officials and Ambassadors/ High Commissioners of several African countries, Okebukola pointed out that as a follow-up to the launch, there was an urgent need to conduct sensitisation and advocacy workshops on the promotion of population-related human rights activities in Africa.
“The need to establish an index for measuring responsiveness and comparing the readiness of African countries to make population an asset was the basis for APG to initiate a unique measure of the level of national responsiveness in catering for the growing population,” he stressed.
To Okebukola, how would the fast-growing population be educated; or how will their food and nutrition, as well as security and health security needs be assured; or how will they be housed, and how will their welfare and social security be catered for, should be not only be a concern to African leaders, but also that concerted efforts be made to ensures these are addressed.
These, among others, according to him, leads to several other pertinent questions to which answers should be urgently sought in order to avert the growing population being a burden to Africa. Therefore, the Distinguished Professor and the Prof-Chancellor/ Chairman of Governing Council of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) insisted that task at hand, to make population an asset, is to stay on the positive side of measures of socio-economic development by each government through responsiveness or effective ability to respond quickly or react appropriately and positively to developmental issues impacting Africa’s population growth.
In reality, the don, who stressed the need for capacity to respond urgently to the growing population in terms of making it an asset, expressed dismay that African countries are not being responsive to population index, as the responsiveness progress is still very low in the continent. Meanwhile, the workshop’s objectives is to, among others, raise public awareness of the nexus and inter-relatedness between African human rights systems, good governance, and better management of Africa’s population; disseminate the findings, and recommendations of the 2020 APG Report on how Africa’s population can be made an asset; promote the results of the 2020 Population As Asset Responsiveness Index (PARI) and its implication for development in Africa; as well as advocate to advance positive change in population management in Africa.
The two-day workshop, however, increased awareness of policy makers and other stakeholders about strategies for better management of Africa’s population that would guarantee adherence to the tenets of human rights. Participants were up-skilled on how to be change agents in raising the Population As Asset Responsiveness Index (PARI) of their countries in the coming years. Besides, the workshop also facilitated the development of guidelines for policy formulation and strengthening on how population could be made an asset in Africa, particularly to ensure equity and justice among underserved populations, women and rural dwellers.
On his part, the Special Guest at the event, Prof. Sarah Agbor, expressed gratitude to Obasanjo, saying his patriotism and passion to seek solutions that would set Africa on the fast track in achieving Africa that we all dreamed of by 2063 is seeing in the APG report on making Africa’s population an asset. Agbor, who is Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation at the African Union Commission, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, also pointed out that Africa is facing several pressures which had been further weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and thus reversing the gains made over the last decade. Participants at the workshop included Prof. J. Mensah from Ghana; Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, Vice- Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University; Ogun State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu; Ambassador Solaja Oluwatoyin; Ambassador Leke Adebiyi; Ambassador Labiran; Dr. Fred Awah from Ghana, and Ambassador Wole Coker, among others.
The sub-themes of the workshop, were “The Dimensions of Africa’s Population Boom: Past to Present,” which had Prof. Peter Ogunjulugbe as the keynote presented, with Dr. Chukwuedozie Ajaero as discussant and Ambassador Solaja, as Chairman.
“Human Rights and the 2020 Population As Asset Responsiveness Index Report for Africa,” by Peter Okebukola, with Prof. Anthony Kola-Olusanya as discussant; while “Human Rights and Perspectives on Making Africa’s Population An Asset,” chaired by Prof. Ifeyinwa Achike, had as discussants Prof. Juma Shabani (Burundi), who spoke on Education Security; Prof. Nimi Briggs and Prof. Olumuyiwa Odusanya (Health Security); Prof. Michael Faborode and Prof. Samson Ayanlaja (Food Security); and Prof. Olaide Adedokun (Housing Security) Prof. Goski Alabi from Ghana presented keynote address on “Women and Roles in Making Africa’s Population An Asset,” with Lovelyn Nwachuku, Dr. Adebimpe Akintayo, Oluwadamilare Alao, Aderonke Olutola-Amos and Victoria Nwandu, Dorcas Adomaa Addo (Ghana) as discussants, and Prof. Uche Uwaleke and Prof. Leke Adebiyi as Chairman and Co-chair respectively. “The Youth and Roles in Making Africa’s Population An Asset,” was anchored by Dr. Fred Awaah (Ghana) with Dr. Femi Jenrola, Omotayo Shittu, Deborah Chidimma Godswill and Onome Benita Obie, Dorcas Adomaa Addo (Ghana), Dr. Kunle Oladejo as discussants. “The Media and Roles in Making Africa’s Population An Asset,” had Prof. Lai Osho from LASU as Lead Presenter, and OOPL SA Media, Segun Olatunji; Kayode Olanrewaju and Bosun Ogundare as discussants, with Prof. Jophus Anamuah-Mensah (Ghana) and Prof. Kolawole Raheem (Ghana) as chairman and co-chair.