Obasanjo says Africa’s population growth is “great liability”

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

Africa’s population will continue to be a liability until the continent addressed critical issues relating to the economic welfare and development of its young people, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, a Former President of Nigeria, has said.

He said the of lack of employment opportunities, education and skills development among many young people on the continent made the continent’s growing population a threat to security.

He made the remarks when he addressed a high-level Dialogue on African Security at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) at Teshie, near Accra on Monday, February 6, 2023.

The Conference, which was spearheaded by the KAIPTC in partnership with the Brenthurst Foundation, brought together stakeholders, policy makers, and security actors from across the region to discuss security challenges facing Africa
over the next generation, and the prospects for outside co-operation and assistance.

Africa’s population is projected to hit 2.5 billion by 2050.

Mr Obasanjo observed that many African countries had had their population increased by at least five folds since they gained independence decades ago.

He said although the growth in population should be an asset to the continent, the lack of corresponding opportunities and training for its people had made the trend a major concern.

“Population can be a liability or an asset. As we have it today, it a great liability and let’s not deceive ourselves.

“My country, Nigeria, where we are 225 million today, 20 million of our children that should be in school are not in school. That is the beginning of insecurity,” he said.

Mr Obasanjo added: “If we have food and nutrition security, if we give every child education, if everybody can acquire skills, if we give science and technology the attention that it should be given, and give every child employment, population will cease to be a liability.”

The West Africa sub-region has been hit by a spate of coups in the last three years, with the region recording three successful military takeovers over the period.

Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali have all seen the government overthrown and replaced with a military junta.
Mr Ernest Bai Koroma, a Former President of Sierra Leone, said the various recommendations that had been proffered by experts to improve security on the continent must be translated into action.

He said countries must work together to address insecurity challenges on the continent given that instability in any country in the region could have ripple effect on other countries.

“There is a lot of pressure on us to do a little bit of outside-the-box thinking on how we can make progress and realise the fullness of our potential.” Mr Koroma said.

Major General Richard Addo Gyane, Commandant, KAIPTC, described Africa’s population growth as startling, adding the meeting would provide an opportunity to provide solutions to security challenges on the continent.

“Unemployment, social media connectivity, and radical ideologies could prove a potent and volatile security and political mix. Today’s policy decisions will help determine whether Africa’s youth will be an asset or burden to their societies, he said.

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