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Madagascar,​ ​the​ ​first​ ​to​ ​launch​ ​the​ ​annual theme​ ​of​ ​the​ ​African​ ​Union​ ​in​ ​rural​ ​areas!

For the first time in the history of the African Union, the unanimity of the Heads of State agreed on the annual theme of the African Union one year in advance. At the same time, the theme is accompanied by a roadmap for the 55 member countries. Focusing on the development of the potential of each member country, 2017 will be conducted under the theme: “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in youth.”

For Madagascar, the national launch takes place in the rural commune of Tsihombe, in the region of Androy, in the great south of Madagascar. The launching ceremony was honored by the presence of the Prime Minister,the Minister of Youth and Sports, the Minister of Industry, the deputy of Madagascar elected by Tsihombe and the UNFPA Resident Representative. The presence of this delegation reflects the will of the government and its partners to activate as quickly as possible the demographic transition for the country. 

In making this launch, Madagascar is among the first 5 countries to have launched the annual theme of the Union and is the first to have launched it in rural areas in order to give the same consideration to the urban and rural population. One of the next steps for Madagascar is the elaboration of the national roadmap for reaching the demographic dividend. 

The annual theme, which focuses on youth, was symbolised by the inauguration of the Youth Centre of Tsihombe, the first infrastructure dedicated to rural youth in the region of Androy. This will enable young people, and adolescent girls in particular, to enjoy their fundamental rights and realise their potential. This Youth Centre is a dedicated place that provides rural youth with facilities for recreation, culture, health and information, as it has a sports field (basketball and volleyball), musical instruments , a library and games of a collective nature (pool table, foosball). <>, literally translated as "The latest but most prosperous", has been personalised by young people themselves on a voluntary basis. It was also an opportunity to train young peer educators in effective communication techniques for young people in adolescent and youth reproductive health and to strengthen their capacity in raising awareness. In all, 20 young people were trained and started the first sensitisation the day before the inauguration. From now on, they will be responsible for the animation and awareness-raising of this Youth Centre. 

Providing young people with a centre dedicated to them is an initiative that responds to one of the four pillars of the demographic dividend: employment and youth entrepreneurship; education and skills development; health and well-being; rights, governance and empowerment of youth. This Youth Centre project is a major challenge for the Ministry of Youth and Sports and UNFPA to offer equal opportunities between urban and rural youth in access to information and services that promise their protection and development on all the plans. It also meets the Sustainable Development Goals’ vision - "leaving no one behind.” 

Youth Centre is then a response that takes into account the importance of the problems faced by adolescents and young people in Madagascar. Indeed, the national survey on the follow-up of the Millennium Development Goals (ENSOMD 2012) shows that more than 43% of deaths occur among children under 24 and more than one third (34%) of adolescent girls 15 to 19 years old. These teenagers are exposed to the risks associated with early pregnancy because 28.4% are currently in union and 11.6% enter the first union before the age of 15. Their fertility rate is close to 37%. 

Investment in the demographic dividend is an important pillar for development, as the Prime Minister emphasized in his address to young people: "You are not only the future of the country, you are the guarantors of the development of the country "in response to the testimony of Ulla, 19, representing the youth of Tsihombe: "Everything is said in the theme: do like the MJS and UNFPA, investing , especially in young people in remote areas, is the best investment a country can make in order to achieve the demographic dividend. Believing in and investing in young people means believing in the future of a country and reaping the benefits! “ At the same time, UNFPA Madagascar, through its Representative, had the opportunity to advocate with the high authorities to urge all the country's forces to invest in realizing the potential of Malagasy youth in addressing the Prime Minister in his speech: "We are confident that you will get the contribution of our religious leaders, our traditional chiefs, heads of family and local authorities so that together we can continue to protect the most vulnerable, especially our young girls, to restore them with dignity so that they can participate in the revival of Madagascar and the economic take-off of this country. Giving girls a chance is certainly the best way to break the cycle of poverty.”