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Pushing the African agenda at UNFPA

NAIROBI, November 20 – He is championing the African agenda from the front; fighting for the African woman and pushing for a better quality of life for citizens of the Continent.

When Capital News caught up with Dr Bunmi Makinwa recently, he was in Nairobi to launch a report on the state of the world population.

Dr Makinwa is the Regional Director for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and is in charge of its projects in 45 African countries.

A simple man, who doesn’t hesitate to take a walk in downtown Nairobi, Dr Makinwa is a graduate of Harvard University with a degree in International Development and Policy. He earned a second degree in Political Philosophy from the University of Ibadan in his home country of Nigeria.

He has extensive experience; he previously worked for Family Health International as a specialist in communication for social behaviour.

He has also worked for World Health Organisation (WHO) as a Communications Officer.

This makes him best placed to champion programmes on reproductive health, gender equality, human rights and other issues to do with population and development.

The soft-spoken Director works with the 45 country representatives to ensure they work with their governments and other development partners to achieve the objectives within the given time.

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“My main worry is maternal health which is not improving at all,” says Dr Makinwa, explaining that the rate of women dying during birth is still high in Africa yet governments have made little effort to arrest the situation.

Mobilising resources to sustain their projects is not a small task, he says, and the current global financial crisis makes it more challenging for UNFPA.
The UNFPA regional offices will, from next year, be located at their specific regions.

“My office will move to Johannesburg. I am proud and happy that I will be in Africa, to feel with the people and their situation will make us work even more efficiently,” he said.

The bigger the job, the more the challenges

Dr Makinwa says management, even for such an organization as the UNFPA, is challenging.

“As a manager you have to know how to deal with people; how to motivate them; how to ensure they work hard. You cannot always increase their salaries, but most of all, you must ensure they are happy with what they are doing,” he says.

The UNFPA mainly handles issues of population, gender, women, health and youth, which Dr Makinwa says are great challenges across Africa.

“My dream is to see African governments successfully addressing the needs of young people and women and also in provision of maternal healthcare,” he concludes.

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