THE United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) has appealed to President Edgar Lungu to strongly advocate the empowerment of the young generation at the next African Union summit.
And President Lungu said Zambia and the UNPFA had a common agenda of developing the young generation and that the agency could count on Zambia in the quest to empower the youth by investing in education and health.
UNFPA executive director Osotimehin Babatunde said about 65 percent of Africa’s population was under the age of 35 years and if the continent had to develop and industrialise itself, it was important for African governments to invest in the youth.
Professor Babatunde, who paid a courtesy call on President Lungu on Saturday on the sidelines of the ongoing African Union, said economic growth for Africa could only be practically possible if African governments invested in the health and education of the young.
Prof Babatunde said Sub-Saharan Africa had the potential to generate about US$500 billion annually in the next 30 years if there was investment in the young generation which he said would generate jobs in the region.
He said while it was important for African governments to continue investing in power generation, infrastructure and health, it was also important for African leaders to push for human capital development particularly in the young people.
Prof Babatunde stated that investment in education and health would subsequently create jobs through Small Scale Medium Enterprises (SMEs), adding that UNFPA was prepared to work with the Zambian Government in pushing for the empowerment of the youth.
He said the entry point for Africa to sustainable development was to consider investing in the young generation which has over the years not received the support it needs from governments.
“Africa possesses human resource particularly among the young generation. About 65 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 35 years and this is a generation that needs investment because with this kind of asset, Africa can certainly have sustainable development. The sub-Saharan has the potential to generate US$500 billion yearly for the next 30 years if African governments invested in education and health for the young generation. Our office is ready to work with the Zambian Government to attain the young people demographic dividend and we ask you Mr President to accept to be the champion of the young people demographic dividend,” Prof Babatunde said.
And President Lungu said although the 2063 agenda seemed to be a long time, it was important for governments to begin pursuing the development agenda for the young generation immediately.
President Lungu challenged Ministers of Gender and Chiefs and Traditional Affairs and their technocrats to come up with statistical evidence that would compel political leaders to drive the agenda of
investing in the young generation.
President Lungu said he was ready to serve the request made by the UNPFA but challenged Prof Babatunde that if the formula that Japan and other developed countries used could apply to Zambia, it would be appropriate to replicate such a modus operandi.
“We have a common agenda of improving the people’s lives and we can only achieve that if indeed we invested in the young generation.
Families that are well to do can easily invest in their young but we have a lot of families that cannot afford. We therefore have the task to improve their lives but as politicians, we feel statistics do not tell us the truth if they are not backed by evidence,” President Lungu said.