Population-development link recognised in Africa

Posted: 26 September 2002

Africa recognizes the close links between population policies and development, according to the recent findings of a panel of eminent persons appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

As a result, many African countries are integrating population factors into thedevelopment process to "contain the tremendous strain and stress that a rapid rate of population growth puts on development".

The panel - chaired by Ghana's former finance minister, Kwesi Botchwey - was formed at the General Assembly's request, to evaluate the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s. The New Agenda was adopted by the Assembly in 1991 as a compact between African countries and the international community to promote African economies and enhance their self-reliance.

Africa's efforts to link development and population, says the panel, "included enhancing gender equity and the empowerment of women, and it promoted the reproductive health and rights of women, the newborn and adolescents, including in conflict situations".

The panel notes the positive role of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA),which was "largely responsible for progress in integrating population issues into the development agenda". In policy terms, the panel states, this meant "reducing maternal and child deaths, providing family planning and, generally, improving the overall standard of living".

UNFPA and others, it says, "addressed a number of issues of relevance to the community: HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation and girls' education, especially low enrolment and high drop-out rates".

Africa's annual population growth dropped from 3 to 2.45 per cent in the last decade. However, warns the panel, it still has the world's highestpopulation growth rate, which outstrips gross domestic product and growth in food production.

Based on the panel's report, Secretary-General Annan has made proposals to the General Assembly on how the United Nations system can help further the New Partnership for Africa's Development NEPAD), adopted by African leaders as the continent's main development framework.

For more information see UNFPA