By State House Communication Unit
President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma today Monday 24 April 2017 officially launched the National Youth Development Week and Demographic Dividend on the theme, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth”. The demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a decline in a country’s mortality and fertility and the subsequent change in the age structure of the population.
Demographic dividend occurs when the proportion of working people in the total population is high and this indicates that more people have the potential to be productive and contribute to growth of the economy.
Speaking at the launching ceremony, President Koroma described the youth population as the most valued resource Africa has in addition to all other natural resources.
“With about 65 percent of the continent’s population below 35 years old; with projections pointing to an increasing number of youth entering the African job market every year; it is a wake-up call for the continent to productively harness this vital natural resource for the development of the continent,” he stressed.
The president said government’s approach was to have a healthy and educated workforce with the right skills and to ensure the continued participation of young people in governance and other levels of decision making adding, that a sufficiently educated youth population will improve living standards, economic growth and political stability.
President Koroma stated that government has provided free primary and junior education, provides grants to deserving students; improved on the intake of women studying in tertiary education and redouble efforts in preparing the young generation in effective leadership. In addition, he stated that a whole ministry for the youth has been carved out, a commission of youth established, undertaking investment in smallholder commercialization and the national youth service to enhance national integration and cohesion. “The youth will not allow any reversal of the gains made so far,” while assuring of government’s unstoppable commitment to youth empowerment.
The Minister of Youth Affairs Bai Mahmoud Bangura told the gathering that the National Youth Week seeks to promote youth recognition, participation and involvement in the development process at all levels including the exhibition of youth potential and innovation. According to him, this year’s theme was selected by the African Union (AU) as a guide to achieve vision 2063. Mr Bangura stated that the investment in youth is not a new phenomenon to this government and called for continued collaboration among ministries toward the achievement of harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in youth.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr Geoffrey Wiffin said the theme is an opportunity for Sierra Leone to bolster efforts in making effective use of the youth population. He said the country must lay emphasis on guaranteeing good reproductive health systems, solid health systems, enhance quality education and create a favourable environment for job creation. He went on to state that the UN will continue to invest in youth, the UN agencies will continue harnessing demographic dividend to transform the African youth population in achieving vision 2063 and the 2030 agenda. He said youth activities will continue to remain at the centre of UN programmes and will support government to push forward the aspirations of the youth.
The UNFPA Representative Kim Dickson said investment in young people would yield economic dividend saying that the country has an unprecedented opportunity to reap that benefit. She pointed out that creating the enable environment, quality education, creating jobs, young people participation in governance, good health and good governance will fast track the achievement of the outcomes of the theme. She added that deliberate action and targeted investment should be directed to secondary education for all, expand technical and vocational training, address unemployment and underemployment and eliminate barriers to youth participation in governance. Kim Dickson also registered UNFPA’s commitment to youth empowerment and continued support to the government.