Few in Nigeria have contributed to the social and intellectual advancement of the country as much as Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi. The intensity and diversity of his interest in human development initiatives stands him out as someone difficult to overlook in national and global reckoning. From concerns with general life expectancy to care for pregnant and nursing women, to diseases that afflict children, scholarship and population studies, and to gender-related matters, he has impacted some segments of human life in more ways than one.
A renowned development expert, Babatunde Ahonsi holds the leadership baton of the United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA) in China, where he currently serves as the organisation’s representative. The UNFPA is a United Nations health agency whose primary objective is to provide sexual and reproductive health support for mothers, children, and the elderly in partnership with national and regional governments, with an eye as well on global population issues.
As the representative of the UNFPA in China, he is tasked with providing leadership and guidance at different levels of the organisation. In partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he is also expected to pursue vigorously improvements in the sexual and reproductive health of people across China.
Of course, such responsibilities are not strange to Dr. Ahonsi, who had discharged similar tasks in Ghana for four years beginning from 23 January 2014.
Prior to joining the United Nations, he had impressively revolutionised the policy landscape of the Population Council having served as the Country Director for Nigeria, coordinating the overall programme and bringing about some unprecedented growth to the organisation. His twelve years at the West Africa Office of the Ford Foundation as the Senior Programme Officer were equally remarkable for his astonishing returns in terms of result stimulating strategies. He formulated strategies that spurred and helped to establish an apparent culture of enthusiasm in the response of national governments to outbreaks of diseases across the globe, and the proliferation of NGOs to defend women’s right in West Africa. Dr. Ahonsi assisted in policy advocacy on sexual and reproductive health, gender equality, and environmental sustainability through the management of funds and technical support to both state and non-state agencies.
Dr. Ahonsi who has a robust background in sociological and demographic studies, has burnished his experience with over a decade of lectureship and research in the field. His first professional foray into teaching and research was at the University of Ilorin in 1985 where he taught Sociology and Demography for three years. He later had stints at the University of Calabar in 1987, and the University of Lagos, in 1988. The sheer volume and diversity of his research and publications speak not just to his intellectual prowess but also to the fact that his international and global recognition is not without justification.
His interests, let it be said again, transcends academics. He has also passionately sought to promote education in sexuality and HIV/AIDS related subjects. Through his instrumentality, people afflicted with the dreaded virus have been educated to pursue a normal life and not to see their affliction as a death sentence. He has also collaborated with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Nigeria working on pro-poor, youth development and maternal health policies. In 1995, he became the World Bank-Robert McNamara Fellow a mere two years following his appointment as a Visiting Young Fellow at the Population Institute for Research and Training at Indiana University Bloomington, USA in 1993. In between, in 1994, he had also earned the CODESRIA Laureate at the First Gender Institute in Dakar, Senegal.
Dr. Ahonsi has served at different levels promoting human development. In 2010 he was appointed as a Trustee of the International Women’s Health Coalition in New York, and in 2013, appointed into the External Advisory Group for the development of UNFPA’s 2014-2017 Strategic Plan in New York. 2008 saw him on the Board of the UN University’s International Institute for Global Health in Kuala Lumpur, and in 2002 he became a member of the Gender and Rights Advisory Panel of the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health & Research in Geneva.
Babatunde Ahonsi distinguished himself as a first-class student during his undergraduate studies at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, and holds a PhD in Population Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science on a 1992 Commonwealth Scholarship.