4 ways to engage young Africans in climate action

Image credit: Niklas Hughes auf Grundlage eines Fotos von @afribeing / Jane Louise Prinsloo

Share this

By Wole Hammond

The recent decades have been characterized by a rise in the effects of climate change. The UN suggests that young people around the world will bear the brunt of climate change. If the status quo remains, and the goal of the Paris Agreement – to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in comparison to pre-industrial levels – is not achieved, there would be devastating impacts for the future generation. While Africa remains the least emitter of greenhouse gasses (GHG), the continent is gravely impacted by the effects of climate change, which could worsen if it remains unabated. However, it is exciting to see that young Africans are aware and taking action to address the climate crisis.

There is data to suggest better generational awareness among younger age demographics across the globe. 76% of young Nigerians aged 16-25 believe that people have failed to care for the Earth which has led to anthropogenic climate change. Not only is there an increase in awareness about global warming among the youth population, but there is also greater participation by young people in taking actions to mitigate climate change. From organizing continental climate strikes to planting over 5,000 trees during the pandemic, young people are finding ways to play a role in the fight against climate change. However, youth have little or no input in actual decision-making on issues relating to climate change. A white paper by the South African Institute of International Affairs suggests that youth inclusion in climate-related matters is still considered an afterthought, and young people are seen as beneficiaries rather than stakeholders.  

Image credit: The United Nations

Here are 4 ways to get the best out of the youth demographic in the response to climate change:

1. Listen to the youth

It has been established that young people are vulnerable to the impact of climate change. It is, therefore, pertinent that governments begin to pay more attention to young people. It is high time for governments and leaders to begin to listen to young people regarding climate change. Young Africans are at the forefront of the climate conversation, speaking the truth to power, and demanding that governments and businesses take green action. Beyond the climate strikes and social media activism by young people, they also have great ideas on the way forward. The youth constituency, through various umbrella bodies including the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC), continues to project its voice and there has never been a better time to listen to and act on what young people have to say.  

Image credit: The United Nations

2. Engage and harness their skills

Young people are doing amazing work including scientific research, advocacy, program management, and providing business solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. As nations seek to achieve their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) targets, the skills and experiences of the youth must be harnessed for robust climate action to achieve net-zero; there is data to suggest that young people are taking the initiative to address climate change, from volunteering with organizations to donating to environmental initiatives. While young people may be regarded as the leaders of tomorrow, they must be encouraged to actively contribute to the current climate action framework and help build the desired green future.

Image credit: The United Nations

3. Invest in youth-led solutions

Young people are developing products, services, and leading campaigns to build a green world. For instance, SustyVibes is a social enterprise making sustainability actionable for young Africans. Green Congo Initiative – a youth organization – protects the environment in Congo Basin and promotes the rights of indigenous people. There are various innovative solutions that are credible and scalable and in need of support. To grow these solutions, governments, corporate entities, and investors must support youth-led solutions to climate change through grants, venture capital, debt financing, or in-kind support. Young people can also benefit from partnerships and mentorship from current leaders to scale their solutions and grow and increase impact.

Image credit: NRDC

  1. Give young people a seat at the table

According to Statista, about 40% of Africa’s population is below the age of 16, and a continental median age of 19.7 years; Africa indeed has a young population. Young people are ready to take a seat at the climate policy decision-making table because they understand that their future will be impacted by the climate crisis if things do not change. For climate-related decision-making to be inclusive and all-encompassing, youth inclusion should not be an afterthought. As governments set and review NDCs and develop policies that have climate implications at the national and regional levels, young people should not be merely represented, but involved in the design and implementation of such policies. Effective climate action must be inclusive and well-concerted allowing everyone to contribute their quota. Young people will play a pivotal role over the next decades, it is important for governments, institutions, and leaders to support and encourage the youth to actively participate in the continental fight against climate change.

Connect with Wole on Twitter and Instagram