Projected baby boom needs immediate action

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

With one-third of the world’s children in 2050 predicted to be born in Africa, the international community must invest in their parents now, not down the road, UNICEF’s executive director said in an interview with The Japan Times.

“Population growth tends to diminish as poverty diminishes,” Anthony Lake of the U.N. Children’s Fund said Saturday, while attending the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development. “The problem is, in a lot of other areas of the world, population rates are going down faster than in Africa. So the proportion of the world’s population is going to be more and more concentrated in Africa.

“In 1950, one in 10 babies was born in Africa. Today, it’s a little less than one out of every four. In 2050, it will be one out of every three.

“If you’re a child being born today in Africa, you’ll be in your mid-30s by 2050. These people will be the parents of the children who are born in 2050,” he said. “The question is what kind of parents will they be, and that depends on investments made now.”

Much of the talk at TICAD V has centered on what kind of investments are required in Africa over the next five years.

Proponents of hiking mid- and long-term international investment in everything from climate change mitigation to poverty reduction and civil engineering infrastructure have all raised their causes in TICAD sessions. But Lake said these issues do not have to compete with each other because they are all interconnected.

“As we look at the post-2015 agenda for development, we need to show that when you improve health, you’re contributing to economic growth, and how economic growth is best if it’s green growth,” he said. “We need to show how climate change has a disproportionate and damaging effect on the poorest, especially children.”

Thanks to recent innovations, African nations are better prepared to address development needs through communications technology. In Uganda, for instance, UNICEF has more than 130,000 youths participating in a program called U-report. They tell UNICEF what’s going on and what’s needed in their country, and the U.N. body, in turn, reports the information to Uganda’s relevant ministries.

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