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Obasanjo: Our increasing population keeps me awake at night… how do we feed them?

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says Africa’s increasing population is assuming a worsening trend, which keeps him awake at night. Spea...

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says Africa’s increasing population is assuming a worsening trend, which keeps him awake at night.

Speaking on Tuesday during the public presentation of the maiden edition of the Africa Progress Group (APG) report, the former president said his heart sinks anytime he travels across places and sees the huge population of people “oozing out from nowhere”.


Obasanjo, who is the chairman of the APG, said if Africa’s growing population is managed properly, it would yield huge dividends for national and regional development.


“Three clusters of questions pop up in my mind any time the scary thoughts of the ever-increasing population kept me awake at night. The first cluster is: how are we going to feed this exploding population?” Obasanjo asked.

“Only a few days ago, the alarm was raised about imminent food crisis in Nigeria. Similar alarm bells have been ringing with increasing stridency all over Africa. How are we going to house them; educate them, provide them with health security and other variants of human security?


“The second cluster of questions is: how do we keep this keg of gunpowder of the large army of unemployed youth from exploding? How do we keep them from enlisting in violent extremist groups and gangs of kidnappers? The third cluster of questions is: how can Africa attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 in a turbulent sea of exploding, not-well-managed populations?


“While these clusters of questions are frightening, they would appear to have an elegantly simple solution — political will and action to make population an asset. This is the master key of a sort! I am sure you noticed that this ‘key’ has two elements — the will and the action.


“Youth unemployment rate in Africa is one of the highest in the world. African countries must urgently commit to lowering this rate through a combination of efforts including functional education, entrepreneurial training, and provision of job opportunities and the enabling environment for investment and growth of small and medium-scale enterprises.


“The attention paid to education by a country is, in large part, a reflection of its responsiveness to making its growing population an asset. Education is seen as the antidote to poverty and ignorance and the direct and indirect key to unlocking human and material resources of a nation. It can be likened to the hub around which other components of development revolve, like spokes on a wheel.”


Obasanjo added that the youth unemployment rate in Africa could be converted into human capital that would translate into a boost for the continent’s economy.

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