The Edinburgh Catalyst Regional Conference in West Africa is underway at the Central Regional capital, Cape Coast.

The three days conference scheduled from Wednesday, July 23 to Friday, July 25 at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), seeks to implore population research scientists to deeply reflect on past contributions to developmental issues to make positive impacts in the lives of current and future population.

The engagement gives academics and students at various stages of their career trajectory to deliberate on population concerns in West Africa.

Themed: “Emerging Population, Health and Development Concerns in West Africa”, the forum is being attended by researchers from Ghana, Benin, Nigeria and Senegal who either joined in-person or virtual.

Addressing participants at the opening of the programme, Dr Samuel Asiedu Owusu, Senior Research Fellow at the Directorate of Research, Innovation and Consultancy at UCC, said the forum will focus primarily on the population of West Africa, its health and developmental issues.

Specifically, seasoned presentations would be delivered with focus on six thematic areas, comprising reproductive health, adolescence and parenthood, communicable and non-communicable diseases, COVID-19, zoonotic diseases, health needs of neglected people and migration.

These discussions would be anchored on the tenet of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) three, on health and well-being.

“Members of the forum will share their research findings on West African population, health and development issues; build capacity, make new or cement existing networks and ignite their passion for making a positive change in the various countries,” he emphasised.

Dr Asiedu Owusu also said there were relevant commonalities among member countries, hence the need to find lasting solutions to problems.

“As researchers and students who consider the Sub-region as our ‘field’, we feel obligated to deepen engagements on emerging population, health and developmental issues in ways that yield positive impacts”.

Dr Asiedu Owusu expressed gratitude to the University Of Edinburgh Centre Of African Studies Catalyst Fellowship Programme, for mobilising and harnessing the capacities of early career African scholars through knowledge and experiential sharing and glad that the fellowship supported more than 100 African early career researchers to attend the 2019 European Conference on Africa held at the University of Edinburgh.

In an address, Professor Delali Badasu with the Regional Institute for Population Studies at the Centre for Migration, University of Ghana said in addressing adolescent health issues, priorities should not exclude the major contextual issues that worked against their social mobility.

She questioned why contemporary societies in West Africa had failed to value children the way it was done in traditional societies, adding that: “The economic and social values of children have “faded” considerably.”

Professor Badasu said the development of the Sub-region should begin with investment in the youth as the demographic dividend from doing so was realized in the Asian countries. West Africa can also gain from the youth bulge.

“This is a more comprehensive approach to development planning and practice, and it must lay emphasis on research,” she emphasized.