Unlocking the potential of Africa’s most abundant resource: its youth

By Jabri Ibrahim | June 9, 2021

Want to know the key issues affecting African youth in their daily lives? Ask them. In their own words, spanning about 20 different African countries and representing all the five major African regions, young people in Africa have articulated their priorities and concerns that speak to their socio-economic positions.

We were able to collect invaluable first-hand data by reaching out to the African youth via entities that they know, trust and recognize, and who I term as acting as “engagement brokers” with us. Some of these engagement brokers include African Youth Initiative on Climate Change, Greenpeace Africa, Green Africa Youth Organization, Africa Youth Climate Hub, Surge Africa, East African Community Young Ambassadors. ACCESS etc. The online survey was disseminated via WhatsApp primarily and received over 150 responses from young Madagascans, Moroccans, Burundians and South Africans.

Most fascinatingly, the data showed that 40.5% of African youth respondents outlined digital inclusion as a particularly difficult challenge while 27.7% of respondents had challenges accessing reliable and affordable energy. Digital inclusion is the significant and major concern that is underpinned by energy poverty. Noting that Africa has huge renewable energy potential and capacity to leapfrog, access to clean energy that can enable digital inclusion in the continent is a priority concern. Other key concerns that were outlined included lack of access to clean water, food security, lack of employment opportunities and security issues in the Horn of Africa. The wide array of nuanced concerns conveys the vulnerable position that young Africans often have.

If the youth of Africa are to have substantive presence and a seat at decision-making tables to have their concerns addressed, then it is imperative that they are given access to an increasingly virtual world. How are we designing events with African youth in mind? How are we addressing their unique concerns? How are we taking the right steps that ensures vibrant diversity of thought at the bargaining table?

The answer is by bringing young Africans in at the design, curation and brain storming phase of these key global events and listening to their climate concerns, what climate messaging is resonating in the African continent and what solutions they have to offer. African youth are incredibly innovative, solutions focused and often drivers of change in their communities. With a bourgeoning youth demographic and 65% of Africans being under the age of 35, and Sub Saharan Africa’s youth population expecting to “double by 2050 African youth are Africa’s most abundant resource. Ensuring their inclusion and getting their buy-in going forward is of utmost importance. To leave 65% of a continent’s most valuable asset behind is to the detriment of the climate movement.

Jabri Ibrahim is Climate Connector Africa for the UN Climate Champions. To follow Jabri on Twitter, please click here.
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