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Perhaps to emphasize just how important the agenda of young people is, both the State of the World Population and State of Uganda Population reports, published by UNFPA and the Population Secretariat (Popsec) and launched on November 21, 2014 in Kampala highlighted one key message: Invest in young people and the country will reap the benefits.

The Minister of State for Investment Dr. Gabriel Ajedra launched the two reports at Imperial Royale Hotel; ‘The Power of 1.8 billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future' and ‘Harnessing Uganda's Demographic Dividend for Socio-economic Transformation'. The occasion was graced by a cross section of people including young people from various universities and youth organisations, civil society organisations, academics, members of Parliament, Policy makers and other members of the public.

Mr. John Mushomi, Assistant Lecturer from Makerere University presented the State of Uganda Population Report and explained how Uganda can harness the demographic dividend. In Uganda, where 52 per cent of the population are young people below the age of 15, participants heard, the country needs to invest in all the pillars of the demographic dividend; health, family planning, education and skills development, economic reforms and job creation, and good governance. "Uganda can only benefit from the opportunity presented by its age structure if we invest in all these pillars. This was the case with East Asian countries like Malaysia, South Korea and others which provide a good example of how to harness the demographic dividend.

"Uganda is ready to take off; what we need to do is make the right investments. We now appeal to the government to walk the talk," said Dr. Jotham Musinguzi (right), the Regional Director of Partners in Population and Development (PPD).

On her part, UNFPA Representative Ms Esperance Fundira said with the right investment, young people can become a formidable force for productivity and accelerate socio-economic development. "With the right investments, young people can unleash their power to build a better future," she concluded.

Re-echoing the messages in the reports, various speakers spoke out about the need for the government to take deliberate efforts to improve the education system, improve access to health and create opportunities for young people to gain skills and employment. Participants also noted that the issue of good governance was critical to realizing the goal of investing in youth and harnessing the demographic dividend. It was recommended that the conversation be taken beyond the confines of hotel rooms to the grassroots to ensure that communities are properly engaged to understand what it means to unleash young people's potential and thereby reaping from the demographic dividend.

Responding to the discussion, Minister of State for Investment Dr. Ajedra noted that the country's high population of young people was of concern to the government and placed an obligation on the government to plan properly for their needs. He noted that Uganda's high population if not planned for will set back the country's socio-economic achievements and pledged to use information availed through the launched reports for decision making to improve the quality of life of Ugandans.