CU Hosts International Conference on Demography and Economic Development
As the world’s population continues to grow at an alarming rate and the palpable shortfall of corresponding infrastructure to make living comfortable for the populace, the Department of Economics and Development Studies of Covenant University organized an International Conference on Demography and Economic Development to signpost the challenges and prospects in population growth.
The two-day conference with the theme: “Demographic Change and Sustainable Development” attracted participants from the academia, non-governmental agencies, interest groups and government agencies.
In his welcome address, the Chairman, Conference Organizing Committee, Dr. Emmanuel Amoo, said there has been an argument in the past that there is a demographic dimension to almost every social and economic issue of importance. It is not clear whether the argument is still relevant or new ideologies would be necessary for the current population momentum and economic development.
Dr. Amoo stated that the conference is a formalized curiosity to shape the population and economic policy and practice that can move the African continent forward. According to him, “This conference is all about charting a course for every man and child to enjoy a life of good health, equal opportunity, and to ensure that poverty is reduced to the barest minimum.
“It is also to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth safe, every young person is free of diseases especially from the scourge of HIV/AIDS, that every active individual is gainfully employed to contribute to the nation’s GDP and ensure that our communities are habitable.”
He averred that sustainable demographic and economic solutions for both the present and future generations would only be reached through participants full and committed participation at all levels of the conference.
The Head, Department of Economics, Dr. Philip Alege on his part said the theme of the conference was carefully chosen to create a platform that allows participants to deliberate on the all-important nexus between demography and economic developments.
Dr. Alege told the audience that the challenges of bringing the growing human populace and their growing needs into balance with natural resource base, which underpins the much-needed development that confronted the world as the 20th century ended still persist today, and the conference should become the foundation for proffering solutions to those challenges and turning them into advantages.
He added that Covenant University’s Department of Economics and Development Studies is determined to take bold steps in charting policy debates of all issues that pertain to helping African nations see how development and the ever-increasing population can be turned into channels of economic development and growth.
Declaring the conference open, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charles Ayo, represented by the Dean, College of Development Studies, Professor Isaiah Olurinola, commended the Department for putting the conference together, as it tallies with the University’s vision of offering education at the regular degree programmes level and conferences, workshops, seminars and symposia in aiding a lifelong learning process.
He noted that the meaning and importance of demographic transitions cannot be overemphasized, and any nation that is interested in making the most of its growing population must also be interested in putting in place structures that would engender commensurate production to match the demands of the populace.
He stated that the educational sector should be seen as a revelation, where the high number of admission seekers for tertiary education cannot be accommodated by the available number of universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and technical schools in the country, likewise the high number of unemployed youths of working age.
The Vice-Chancellor’s representative challenged participants to deliberate robustly and come up with a workable communiqué that would assist nations in the African continent to rise to the challenges of a population and demographic imbalance, so that it does not become a catastrophic development issue for the continent.
In his keynote address, the Director-General National Population Commission, Dr. Ghaji Isma’ila Bello, represented by the Director, Planning and Research in the Commission, Dr. Emmanuel Atta, said while population is a natural endowment, if not properly managed, it could constrain the effort of government to fulfill its commitment to improve the quality of life and the standards of living for the people.
Dr. Atta stated that the Federal Government of Nigeria, in her drive to adequately address the needs and well-being of its citizens, adopted a National Population Policy For Development, Unity, Progress and Self-Reliance back in 1988, which was revised in 2004 and renamed National Population Policy for Sustainable Development, with the objective of promoting maternal, child and reproductive health care, achieving a lower population growth rate through the reduction of birth rates by voluntary fertility regulation methods.
In addition, the policy also aimed at achieving even distribution of population between urban and rural settlements, preventing the causes and spread of HIV/AIDS pandemic, and addressing the problems of internal migration and spatial distribution of the population.
Dr. Atta stated that a cursory look at Nigeria’s population figures with the current growth rate of 3.2% creates apprehension over the consequences of rapid population increases, placing enormous responsibilities on governments, the civil society and individuals.
He, however, said there are a number of key drivers that could help change the economic landscape to alleviate poverty and facilitate sustainable development. According to him, “In facilitating the process of sustainable development, action must be channeled towards raising awareness and promoting the need for concerted efforts for poverty reduction.
“Developing a country-specific knowledge sharing resource between researchers, policy makers and development practitioners, working in partnership with those responsible for policy implementation and, building and strengthening capacity of all to recognize the need for ‘soft skills’ and build training in these skills into education and training courses.”
Dr. Atta called participant’s attention to some pressing issues as it pertains to population and development, and his expectation that the conference is expected to proffer solutions and a roadmap to achieve the much-desired socio-economic growth.
Some of these issues include poverty and inequality, gender issues, investment in young people and their roles in socio-economic development, environmental sustainability, urban growth, ageing and data generation.