Africa is ripe, ready for the picking

2011-11-26 14:57

The global population recently reached seven billion.

In Africa, a child, presumably female, is born into a world whose population seems to be rising rapidly at a birth rate of 5.2 compared with the global average of 2.5.

This child is born onto a continent where one billion people are not only still plagued by HIV/Aids, malaria, tuberculosis, and high infant and maternal mortality rates, but also by poverty, famine, high unemployment and political challenges.

But let’s not forget that in Africa, this child is also born into a world of opportunities.

This child is born into a continent where six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, called the “lion kings” by the Economist, are situated.

A continent not only rich in natural resources and with one of the largest consumer and workforce markets, but one which can provide food for the growing population.

As I travel around the world, I am amazed at the large number of African immigrants providing excellent service in hotels as drivers, waitresses and so on.

They provide essential services in hospitals and old-age centres in the West. Baby 7?billion born in Africa will add to the face of the young population that holds the prospects for the future.

Africa has an opportunity to turn its burgeoning population growth into its advantage.

Other parts of the world are struggling with their declining populace, but the African continent can use this continuous growth as a catalyst for innovation and prosperity.

I believe that education and skills development are the keys to Africa’s growth.

I also cannot stress enough my belief that female empowerment is key to ensuring that at a micro-level, families are able to become active participants in our continent’s development.

The education of women and girls on their reproductive health and rights is essential to promoting family planning.

As long as women and girls have no rights over their bodies, attempts at reducing fertility rates will meet with
little success.

So, as we celebrate the seven billion mark, let this be an opportunity to empower women to become fully functional members of our society.It is time to shift the mental paradigms that still hold women back.

Let’s include them in policies and strategies that seek to grow our country and continent.

Religious institutions, governments, businesses, civil society and NGOs need to demonstrate their commitment to bringing the other half of the human race, women, to the table.

Let us welcome the 7-billionth inhabitant of our planet into a world full of opportunities, so she can become the one in seven billion that counts.

There is no doubt that as more women are empowered and educated, there is less “need” for families to have children as “security” for their future.

By giving more women and girls access to education, skills and opportunities to become active participants in our economy, we ensure a prosperous Africa and a more peaceful world.

» Moloi-Motsepe chairs the International Women’s Forum of South Africa, serves on the Global Agenda Council for the World Economic Forum, and is chairperson of African Fashion International

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