Malawi youth can be drivers of economic growth -Finance Minister

Malawi must invest in its youth as they have great potential to be drivers of economic growth, says the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe.

Gondwe said young people held a great potential as drivers of economic growth through participation in labour and production, and therefore must be supported by every sector of society.

“As they enter adulthood, the support they receive from the community, government and other stakeholders will help shape their future and the future of the nation,” he said.

Gondwe was speaking in Lilongwe when he presided over this year’s World Population Day activities being commemorated globally under the theme ‘Investing in young people’.

Gondwe: Involve youth
Gondwe: Involve youth

The theme aims at ensuring that nations recommit their efforts towards promoting people’s aspirations and also place the youth at the heart of global and national development endevours.

However, Malawi has gone further to refine the theme to ‘Investing in young people: key to development’. The day’s activities included displays that the Family Planning Association of Malawi, Banja La Mtsogolo, Population Services International, National Youth Council of Malawi and youth groups exhibited.

Gondwe, reflecting on the theme for the commemoration, said the nation was conscious that young people in the country today faced a cross-section of socio-economic challenges. He said the theme was relevant because young people were often marginalized, thus lowering their status in society. They had limited access to economic activities and were often left out of leadership and decision-making processes, he lamented. Gondwe said: “About four million youths are faced with the prospect of early marriage, teenage pregnancy, incomplete education, unemployment, violence, abuse, defilement and the threat of HIV and AIDS.”

He said poverty, high illiteracy levels, unemployment, substance use and abuse, HIV and AIDS and limited access to Sexual Reproductive Health Services and Nutrition were some of the challenges that limited contribution by the youth to national development as highlighted by the National Youth Policy.

Gondwe said the challenges were part of what he described a vicious circlethat was linked and exacerbated each other, especially among young people.

For instance, he said, lack of vocational skills and income opportunities, lack of information, and inadequate education among youths contributed to adverse Sexual and Reproductive Health outcome.

He said early and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal morbidity and mortality, infertility, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV and AIDS were some of the outcome.

“We need to cooperate fully to reduce unplanned teen pregnancies, abortions, and early marriages. We need to be united to reduce sexually transmitted infections including HIV and AIDS, promote gender equality, reduce drug and substance abuse, promote sports and positive cultural activities,” he said.

Malawi is one of the countries with the highest maternal mortality rate. Most of it occurs among young people who make up a greater proportion of the population, now estimated at 15.8 million.

The country also has the highest youth population on the continent with 73 per cent below the age of 29 years, while 67 per cent are below the age of 25. Fifty two per cent are below the age of 18 years.

Gondwe said in response to the challenges, government had put in place a number of strategies to address issues affecting young people.

One strategy is the revision of the National Youth Policy to include topical issues affecting young people, namely participation and leadership, health and nutrition, science and technology, and environment.

Gondwe said government had also created more educational and training opportunities for the youth at all levels, and re-orienting and encouraging them to participate in development activities.

He also spoke about the need to establish youth and resources centres where the youth could get valuable information on important skills in their lives.

The youth centres would also promote vocational skills which, Gondwe said, were the appropriate and affordable alternative to reduce the problem of unemployment in districts.

He appealed to all development partners and stakeholders to complement government efforts in promoting sustainable livelihood and reducing youth unemployment by, among other things, equipping the youth with entrepreneurial skills and loan facilities.

Gondwe thanked the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and all cooperating partners for supporting government in what he called one of the nation’s most notable goals of building a better Malawi through implementation of population and development programmes.

Malawi’s population has grown rapidly from almost four million in 1966 to 14.8 million in 2012. The UN projections show that the population could easily reach 23 million in 2025 and 37 million in 2050 if families continue to have on average six children, says the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development.

The Ministry in its publication titled ‘Why Population Matters to Malawi’s Development’, says the astounding population growth has come from a decline in mortality rate the country has experienced since the 1950s due to improvements in nutrition and health care.

The publication also attributes the rapid population growth to “stubborn high levels of fertility that have remained unchanged since 2004, adding that even with national HIV prevalence of 11 per cent, AIDS-related mortality does not offset the results of high fertility”.

“As Malawi and the world improve health and reduce mortality by focusing on the Millennium Development Goals, Malawi’s population growth will continue to pose challenges for its development, unless families have fewer children,” the Ministry warns in the publication.

And Gondwe said the fact that a large proportion of the country’s population comprised young people and a growth rate of 2.8 per cent per annum, would exert pressure on social services such as health and education facilities, as well as on land and environment.

“I therefore call upon men, women and all youth to embrace issues of family planning and reduce family size,” he said.

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