WINDHOEK, DEC. 4 – A United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) official has said Namibia needs a solid policy framework, but most importantly a corresponding implementation plan to ensure that the country harnesses a maximum Demographic Dividend (DD).
UNFPA country representative, Dennia Gayle made these remarks at the start of the two-day National Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting on the Draft National Youth Policy III in the capital yesterday, and added that countries with the greatest potential to harness the DD are those undergoing accelerated economic growth, with a large proportion of young people on the cusp of working age.
Demographic Dividend refers to the growth in an economy that is the resultant effect of a change in the age structure of a country’s population. The change in age structure is typically brought on by a decline in fertility and mortality rates.
Gayle said Namibia had recently launched a DD study, and that Namibia’s window of opportunity for harnessing the DD opened in 1990 and is expected to peak in 2052.
“This implies that Namibia has a relatively shorter period (34 years) within which it can harness the DD before the window shuts. In essence, Namibia’s current youth bulge can either be turned into a ‘demographic dividend’ or a ‘liability’. In other words, it can be a country’s best dividend or it can be a ticking bomb.”
She told participants that four in 10 people – 42 per cent of the global population – are aged under 25.
Added Gayle: “Nearly half of the world’s young live in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Namibia 66 per cent of the population is under age 30 years; and no one shies away from recognizing the compounding challenges that confronts our youth such as high school dropout rate, unemployment, high teenage pregnancy rate, new HIV infections.”
Gayle subsequently called for deliberations of a Policy that would ensure that adolescents and young people flourish on the road to adulthood.
“What is needed is an integrated set of policies and programs that addresses the “whole person” and pays close attention both to the context in which young people live and to the relevant international standards. The policy must encapsulate the elements of vision, framework and realistic guidelines from which strategies and initiatives can be developed to facilitate meaningful youth participation and development within the country,” she said.
According to Gayle, evidence has shown that national and global development as well as security and social justice can only be achieved if adolescents and youth are included as full and active participants.
“Investments in young people now are in everyone’s interest and are everyone’s responsibility: families, community leaders, nongovernmental organizations, governments, the private sector, the international community, and others alike.”
She explained that the UNFPA has reaffirmed its commitment to working with partners, UN agencies, and in particular young people themselves.
“We are advocating for evidence-based policies and programs for adolescents and youth; promoting their access to comprehensive sexuality education as well as sexual and reproductive health services, including contraceptive choices; and facilitating asset building, leadership and participation.”
She said UNFPA was committed – with an emphasis – on reaching the poor, marginalized, especially adolescent girls, and called for both the public and private sectors to invest in young people to achieve their full potential. – firstname.lastname@example.org