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The African Union and HelpAge urge member states to promote the rights of older people in Africa

The African Union Commission (AUC) and HelpAge International have urged African Union Member States to develop and implement policies that protect the rights of older people in Africa. This was during a roundtable meeting on the Role of older persons in achieving Africa’s agenda 2063which took place today 10 September 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the members of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) and other key stakeholders.

The Chairperson of the PRC, H.E Albert Ranganai Chimbindi, reiterated the willingness of the African Union to guarantee that the developmental approach of the Africa’s Agenda 2063 is inclusive. He recognised that older people are the custodians of the African culture and therefore, deserve that Africa creates conditions for their contribution to the achievement of the objectives of Agenda 2063. He also highlighted that to address the issue of older people in Africa is also a window of opportunity for the continent to better plan the future of the younger generation.

The Director of Social Affairs of the African Union Commission Ambassador Olawale Maiyegun informed member states that the population of older people in Africa is increasing drastically and therefore there is an urgent need to ensure that specific measures are in place to address the needs of older people. 

Ambassador Maiyegun said that although the African Union is making efforts to address ageing issues by setting up frameworks and legal instruments including the AU Policy Framework on Plan of Action on Ageing (AUPFAA), the Africa’s Agenda 2063, the African Common Position on Post 2015 sustainable development (AU, 2014) and the recently approved Protocol on the Rights of Older People; more needs to be done to implement these instruments at the national levels. He also called upon the PRC representatives to encourage their respective States to manage proactively the adoption and ratification process of the approved Protocol.
Thecall to African governments in Addis Ababa follows the release of Global AgeWatch Index 2015 report by HelpAge International whose main aim is to raise visibility of ageing at regional and national levels as well as provide a framework for governments and institutions to respond to ageing population and the UN Secretary General call for Data Revolution. 

The Global AgeWatch Index 2015 notes that older women and men in Africa experience economic and social hardships with the majority unable to access basic services. It reviews 13 different indicators for the four key domains of Income security, Health status, Capability, and Enabling environment. Due to lack of relevant data, only 11 African countries are included in the Global Age Watch Index out of the total 93.  

The countries are Ghana, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and United Republic of Tanzania. 

“The big story this year in the Index, is that millions of older people are invisible, living their lives in countries where information on the quality of older age is missing from international data sets,” said Toby Porter, Chief Executive of HelpAge International. He added that poverty rates in old age are missing from international data sets in at least 93 countries. “It’s particularly shocking in Africa where there was only enough data available to include 11 out of 54 countries,” he said.  

According to Dr Prafulla Mishra, Regional Director, HelpAge International, East, West and Central Africa, there is increased recognition of the ageing population and the challenge it poses for the inclusive and sustainable development in Africa. He welcomed the approved Protocol on the Rights of older people and urged the African Union to make use of the Global AgeWatch Index as yet another important tool to use to generate data and plan for older persons.

Mr. Sola Mahoney, HelpAge International Trustee emphasised that older men and women of Africa continue to live miserable lives of poverty and lack basic human rights needs including access to a secure income, shelter and food. Without a well-established social security strategy, older people’s right to live dignified lives will be impossible to achieve. “Older people play a critical role in many aspects of Africa’s economic and social development”, noted Mr.Sola. 

Furthermore, Mr. Sola challenged governments to put systems in place that facilitate inter-generational exchange of knowledge and skills and for the two generations to work together and realize Agenda 2063. “We need to be careful that we should not focus all our efforts in taking care of the youth at the expense of the other generations. We should strive to ensure that we leave no one behind,” Sola said.

The roundtable took place in the context of the implementation of the Agenda 2063 aiming to eradicate poverty in one generation and build shared prosperity through social and economic transformation of the Continent. The first of the seven aspirations of the new continental development framework calls for “a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development”. More specifically, it intends, among others, to provide social security and protection for older persons on the continent.


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