West and Central Africa’s (WCA) population is predominantly young. More than 64% are under the age of 24. Young people are a tremendous resource for the region – but their potential will only be realized when the right investments in their education, health, skills and empowerment are made.
In West and Central Africa, the large youth cohort represents a historic opportunity to introduce progress and adopt innovative solutions to ignite change. The SDGs present a blueprint for the ways we can collectively take action to improve the lives of millions of people all around the world. Putting youth at the centre of our engagements and our development priorities is critical.
We must put young people first if we are to harness the demographic dividend, build resilience and transform the continent to achieve the SDGs and the Africa We Want.
To achieve these goals, a fundamental shift is needed. To empower young people means giving them the tools to become even more influential, productive actors in their societies. In order to achieve this, countries need to end all forms of discrimination and violence faced by young people, particularly adolescent girls, such as child marriage and sexual violence, which can result in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and HIV infections, and risk derailing their future.
Central to these efforts must be the promotion of access to education, health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, and employment. These combined interventions are critical in order to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, strengthen the resilience of young people, and harness the demographic dividend.
This Adolescents and Youth Report provides a comprehensive overview of the situation of young people in West and Central Africa today. It gives a detailed data and narrative analysis of the sexual and reproductive health, education, employment, social protection, gender issues, and emergency challenges that young people face in this region. The Report is meant to guide policy makers, programme implementers, young people and other key stakeholders to develop multisectoral policies and programmes that respond to the needs of young people.
UNFPA urges government partners, UN agencies, youth groups, and CSOs to use the Report’s findings and recommendations to take actions to promote young people’s development and human rights, and to measure progress across the Sustainable Development Goals that relate to adolescents and youth. UNFPA is committed to ensuring that the full potential of young people can be realized.
UNFPA Regional Office for West
and Central Africa