An inclusive Approach to Developing the National Road Map on Demographic Dividend in Cameroon

23 Juin 2017

Yaoundé-Cameroon: In line with the African Union recommendation for member states and governments to rethink development strategies in order to harness the demographic dividend for the “Africa We Want”, the government of Cameroon with the support of UNFPA is taking bold steps to put in place the national road map on the demographic dividend. The first consultative meeting of developing the national road map to harness the demographic dividend took place on 18th March 2017 and culminated in the final consultative meeting that brought together 15 high representatives from government ministries and statistical institutions, 5 UN agencies, the World Bank, 6 representatives of civil society organizations and youth organizations from 19-20 June 2017. The formulation of the national road map builds on the African Union road map’s four thematic pillar: (Employment and Entrepreneurship, Education and Skills Development, Health and Wellbeing and rights, Governance and Youth Empowerment) on “harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the youth” The bringing together of government, UN agencies, civil society organizations and youth groups resulted into having an inclusive national road map with national ownership to harness the demographic dividend.

Youth priorities identified
Representatives of youth organizations met on 8th June 2017 to prepare and consolidate their inputs into the national meeting on the finalization of Cameroon’s national road map. The basis of their work was the regional road map adopted during the Youth Leadership Forum on Demographic Dividend which was held in April 2017 under the auspices of the UNFPA West and Central Africa Regional Office (WCARO) in Dakar. The contribution of youth representatives focused on advocacy, sensitization and capacity development on issues directly affecting young people and their ability to influence planning and decision making. In a nutshell, that is, the youth playing a critical role in identifying their challenges and opportunities and contributing as development resource as against development recipients.
In recognizing, the youth as a development resource through investing in them, the Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Louis Paul Motaze has stated that "For the government, investing in youth in general and on teenage girls in particular is a guarantee of human capital improvement that requires us to achieve the goal of zero school dropouts and zero adolescent pregnancy. Investing in adolescents appears to be a means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, to benefit from the demographic dividend and to support Cameroon's economic growth in its march towards emergence.”

A massive mobilization of Civil Society Organizations (CSO)
In order to ensure that the voices of civil society organizations are reflected in the national road map, on 16th June 2017, under the auspices of Women For a Change Cameroon (Wfac), representatives from civil society organizations gathered in Yaoundé to reflect and consolidate their inputs into the national road map. This CSO gathering brought together 70 participants working in thematic areas relevant to the four pillars of the AU road map and across all 10 regions of Cameroon.  The occasion witnessed three international CSO representations from Ethiopia, Lesotho and Somalia, whose participation was to learn on the Cameroonian CSO contribution and replicate in their home countries in contributing to their respective national road maps. A key contribution the CSOs brought to the forefront, was its recognition as a development partner and the need for its capacity development in resource mobilization to effectively contribute in harnessing the demographic dividend and achieving the SDGs. 
"There is no doubt that the demographic dividend takes a feminist approach, which is transformative in addressing development on the continent, Cameroon especially - but even at that care must be taken because if not, in reaping the economic dividend,   the country might end up creating or reinforcing another form of inequality. As a civil society participant, it is therefore, our responsibility to see that government commit wholeheartedly and strategically invest in harnessing the potential of its people especially its youth, women, and girls who make up the bulk of its most active population". Explained Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondieh, Founder and Executive Director of Women For A Change Cameroon.

A national roadmap reflecting diversity in inclusiveness

UNFPA has played a catalytic role that ensured all stakeholders and partners from the government, UN, civil society and youth groups worked together in harmony to develop the current national road map on harnessing the demographic dividend. 
The inclusive approach is essential, as Barbara Sow the UNFPA Representative pointed out:

"We cannot have a population and a human capital that has great opportunities in the field of employment but suffers in the field of health, we cannot advance if education is not well articulated with employment opportunities. The demographic dividend constitutes a reference framework to ensure that all these sectors advance at the same pace and in the same direction.”


Way Forward
The next step is the official submission of the national road map of Cameroon by the Ministry of Economy, Planning Regional Development to the Ministry of External Relations. The government will put in place an inclusive technical and coordination mechanism for effective follow up and implementation.