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Principal Secretary, Irungu Nyakera delivering the Keynote address on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary, Mwangi Kiunjuri during the 1st Africa-China Conference on Population and Development

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SPEECH BY THE CABINET SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF DEVOLUTION AND PLANNING DURING THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF 1ST AFRICA – CHINA CONFERENCE ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT
DATE: 18TH APRIL, 2017
VENUE: HILTON HOTEL, NAIROBI
Honorable Ministers
Delegates from the Peoples Republic of China
Representatives from African States and Governments
Representatives of UNFPA
Development partners
Representatives of Academic and Research Institutions
Non-Governmental Organizations and other stakeholders present
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to preside over this opening session of the First Africa – China Conference on Population and Development. Population continues to be one of the most widely discussed and studied aspects of economic and social development and increases in knowledge and experience on population in the developing world results in commensurate urgency about finding sustainable solutions that will improve the quality of life. It is against such a background that debate on the relationship between socio-economic development and population is accorded high priority in developing nations because understanding the linkages between the two is key to ensuring inclusive economic growth. I am therefore grateful that this is the theme of this conference.  
Ladies and gentlemen
The African Union’s Assembly of the Heads of State declared 2017 as the year for “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth”. As a result, efforts have been initiated or undertaken by the African countries, regional institutions, Development Partners and Civil Society Organization to respond to the Assembly’s call. The theme of the conference “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend in Africa” is therefore in line with the African Union’s Assembly priorities and focuses on population dynamics in driving socio-economic growth.

Ladies and gentlemen
The population of Africa is characterized by a rapid growth rate resulting from high fertility and declining mortality and as a result, in 2016 the Africa population was estimated to be about 1.2 billion. To put this into perspective, in some countries, such as Angola, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger the average number of children per woman is still above 6 children per woman. On the other hand countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Sudan are on a transition pattern towards lower fertility levels. In these countries, the average number of children per woman is 4.3.

It is also important to appreciate that the high population growth rate of almost all countries in Africa has resulted in a relatively youthful overall population with over half of the people below the age of 20 years. The proportion of individuals below 15 years is projected to decline gradually to 36% by 2030 while those aged 15 to 59 years will increase from 456 million people in 2010 to reach 758 million in 2030. This young population structure introduces challenges for African countries in ensuring universal education and providing access to employment opportunities
Ladies and Gentlemen
Currently, the demographic dividend framework is seen as a viable mechanism for harnessing the potential of young persons in developing countries to achieve faster and sustainable socio-economic development. This concept is based on the experiences of some of the high and middle income countries that in the 1970s had high levels of unemployment and poverty but were able to turn around their economies by empowering women and their partners to have fewer children while at the same time making strategic investments in health, education, economic growth and job creation. The citizens in these countries, which include the Asian Tigers, now enjoy a much higher quality of life and GDP per capita as compared to most African countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Recently, during the 50th anniversary commemoration of the African Union, the African heads of states and governments rededicated themselves to accelerate development and technological transformation across the continent. This aspiration is well articulated in the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which seeks to exploit all available opportunities to ensure positive socio-economic transformation of the continent by 2063. Agenda 2063 further calls on African countries to integrate demographic dimensions in all development programmes, and strengthen the link between the demographic dividend and economic growth, including promoting inclusive development. Specifically, this long-term development blueprint calls for intensified investments and efforts to unleash the potential of the continent’s young people.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I note with appreciation that this conference is jointly organised by the Government of Kenya and the Peoples Republic of China, with the support of UNFPA. The population of Africa and China when combined accounts for about 35 percent of the global population and therefore the collaboration between Africa and China in the field of population and development will have profound effect in sustainable development and improve the quality of life of a large proportion of the globe. China has important population and development lessons that can benefit Africa such as the success in substantially declining the population growth rate from the 1970s which has resulted in more sustainable population growth rate numbers.

As a result this decline has provided an opportunity for China to achieve rapid socio-economic development which has resulted in a high quality of life for her citizens. As African countries pursue efforts to lower population growth rates, care should be taken to avoid drastic declines in birth rates, including the acceleration of population ageing, which might impact negatively on African countries’ future socio-economic development.
Ladies and Gentlemen
since China joined Partners in Population and Development (PPD), a South-South initiative as a member state, (and currently the chair), there has been tremendous progress in the engagement between China and African countries particularly on Capacity Building in Program Management on Population and Development, strengthening of Health Systems in Member Countries, documentation and sharing of the best practices in population management, strengthening networks through signing of Memorandum of Understanding within partners and between PPD and Partners, exchange of expertise on various spheres of development, awarding fellowships to individuals from member states, sharing of technologies and expertise and supporting in supplies of Reproductive Health commodities in PPD member countries among others.
Ladies and gentlemen
This First Africa – China Conference on population and development, whose theme is ‘China-Africa Population and Development Status, Prospects and Policies’, provides a good opportunity to consolidate our diverse knowledge and experiences towards mutual social and economic transformation for the wellbeing of our people. It is my expectation that by the end of this conference we shall among other things, have formed a stronger basis for promoting and strengthening collaboration and partnerships between Africa and China in the field of population and development; facilitated and created an African-China knowledge sharing platform of researchers, policy makers and programme managers on population and development; and created an international network of academic associations, research and government institutions, experts and scholars, inter-governmental organizations, and UN organizations engaged in population and development issues in Africa, China and PPD partner countries; marshaled the potential of Africa-China collaboration and engagements in making a fundamental difference in Population and development for African, China and other PPD partner countries. It is, therefore, important for us to learn from each other with a view of taking home lessons that can be put into practice.

Ladies and gentlemen
As I conclude, I wish you successful discussions and hope that the deliberations will stimulate positive actions in all our countries. On behalf of the Government of Kenya I welcome our visitors to this beautiful and vibrant city of Nairobi and hope that before you return home you will take some time off to enjoy the rich natural, social, and cultural heritage that is abundant in the city and throughout the country.

It is now my great pleasure to declare the 1st Africa – China Conference on Population and Development officially opened.

Thank you!