Today the African Leaders Malaria Alliance joins the world in commemorating International Youth Day. This year’s theme “Youth Engagement for Global Action” provides the impetus for young people to lead. Africa’s renaissance requires adequate investment in youth. African youth constitute more than 60 per cent of the continent’s population.
Achieving Africa’s transformational agenda will depend much more on ensuring that Africa’s youth become active players in defining the broader health and development agenda, laying a strong foundation for Africa’s inclusive economic growth, poverty reduction, peace and security and shared prosperity. As we join hands with the international community today, we underscore the need for increased action and engagement with the youth at local, national, continental, and global levels.
Africa’s youthful population will spur the continent to greater economic achievements. This is against a background of positive economic growth indicators that have since been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, Africa was on track to continue its economic expansion, with forecasted growth set to increase from 2.9 per cent in 2019 to 3.5 per cent in 2021 contributing to poverty reduction and positive health outcomes across the region.
Furthermore, the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in May 2019 was set to boost intra African trade adding to some of the highest global returns of foreign direct investment seen in recent years.
As we celebrate International Youth Day, we are at a crossroads. The COVID-19 public health emergency threatens to derail the unprecedented progress made over two decades in the fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria. With Africa having over 90 per cent of malaria cases and deaths, recent World Health Organization modelling data warns that anticipated disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and in access to antimalarial medicines as a result of COVID-19 could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths—to nearly 800,000—in Africa south of the Sahara this year alone.
To avert this dire scenario, African nations are moving ahead with life-saving mosquito net distribution campaigns, indoor residual spraying, and preventive treatments for pregnant women and children, as well as ensuring that we sustain access to case management.
To achieve the bold and ambitious targets that we set in the Catalytic Framework to end AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030, there is greater need to minimise the far reaching social and economic implications of COVID-19 that threaten to derail Africa from its development path.
Now is the time for leaders to remain resolute despite the challenges that COVID-19 poses in the fight against malaria. Sustaining domestic resource commitments will ensure that Africa’s fight against malaria is assured and sustained.
The African Union Constitutive Act, the African Youth Charter and the African Union Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth give due priority to youth development and empowerment underscoring the importance of youth participation and involvement in the development of the continent.
I join hands with the international community to underscore the need to enable the engagement of youth by making local, national and global institutions more inclusive for the purpose of strengthening their capacity and relevance to achieve national, regional, continental and global action.
It is critical that we protect the gains in the fight against malaria. Zero Malaria Starts with Me. Zero Malaria Starts with the Youth. Zero Malaria Starts with All of Us.