New York

22 September 2014

Secretary-General's video message to General Assembly High-Level side event on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend in Sub-Sagaran Africa

I commend the bold leadership and commitment of Sahelian governments that are accelerating action to harness the demographic dividend.

Investments in boosting health, nutrition and human capital will largely determine whether the region can take advantage of a demographic bonus. 

Last November, I visited the Sahel with World Bank President Jim Kim and key partners. Together, we responded to Niger President Issoufou’s call for a stronger regional response to ensure the healthy development of women, youth and adolescents.

The dividend is not automatic. Timing is key. The Sahel’s best window of opportunity is now through the next 15 years. This coincides with the post-2015 agenda. We cannot lose this historic opportunity to transform the region.

We have moved from pledges to action. Partnership is critical. The Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Project is galvanizing partners and creating a platform to optimize their contributions. These efforts dovetail with the UN Integrated Sahel Strategy.

The Sahel’s economic transformation requires empowering women and girls, protecting their rights, and enabling them to fully participate in society. Today’s meeting focuses on key investments to accelerate the dividend, including reproductive health, especially family planning; child health and nutrition; girls’ education; and eliminating harmful cultural practices.

We must build on each others’ strengths. We must reach out to community and religious leaders, fathers and husbands, women and girls – and embrace young people as leaders of change.

You have the UN’s full support in advancing to a better future.

Thank you.