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Africans acknowledge population problems


January 20,  1993

Africans acknowledge population problems

Adverse impact on societies and development

By Ashali Varma

In an unprecedented move, African governments have formally acknowledged that population growth could adversely affect development, and that unless they gain control of their rapidly growing populations, African countries face a grim future.

“It is noteworthy that African countries were able to agree on the demographic targets and the importance of good quality family planning services reaching those targets.” said Alan Keller, a senior official of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Keller said that the governments’ action came recently at the Third African Regional Population Conference, which was attended by ministers from more that 50 African countries, UNFPA, the Economic Commission of Africa, the Organization of African Development Bank and the Union for African Population Studies organized the meeting, which was held in Dakar, Senegal.  The conference focused on the importance of reducing population growth rates in order to facilitate economic progress and sustainable development.

Nafis Sadik, Executive Director of UNFPA, told the conference that for successful family planning, four priorities must be observed:  The importance of national sovereignty; the importance of individual choice, particularly for women; the importance of integrating family planning information and services with other policies affecting the family; and finally, the importance of ensuring that population policies are an integral part of the drive for sustainable development.

The ministers who attended the Dakar conference said that their governments needed to ensure that adequate national planning and budgetary resources were appropriated for population activities.  They also asked the international community to increase assistance for population.

Delegates drafted a declaration which stressed that African nations were now willing to deal with problems of population and economic development.  Some commitments mentioned in the declaration are :

  • To lower the annual population growth rate from 3 percent to 2.5 percent by the year 2000, and to 2 percent by the year 2010.
  • To increase the contraceptive prevalence rate from the current 10 percent to 20 percent in the year 2000 and 40 percent by the year 2010, And,
  • To reduce the infant mortality rate to fewer than 50 per 1,000 live births by the year 2000.

The declaration also emphasized the importance of high quality family planning services at the national level.

According to Sadik, the Dakar Declaration represents a giant step forward for the region, “It recognizes the primacy of the family, and puts family considerations firmly in the context of the national and international struggle for sustained and sustainable development,” she said, “It recognizes that goals in the areas of fertility, population growth and contraceptive use may now be appropriate.  It equally recognizes that goals are indicators of achievement, not the achievement itself, ”Sadik’s agency is organizing the United Nations’ International Conference on Population and Development, scheduled to be held in Cairo in September 1994.