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Equality & Inclusivity

Africa Day 2020: Africa's youth are rising to the challenge

This blog is bought to you by guest editors Brighton Mukupa Kaoma, WWF International President’s Awardee and Alice Ruhweza, WWF Regional Director for Africa

Today we celebrate Africa Day and commemorate the founding of the Organization of African Unity on May 25, 1963. While we celebrate in solitude, we’re reminded to reflect on our forefathers’ service, their principles of coexistence between the individual and society, and the greater values of social cohesion and unity of purpose.

For those of us born after the liberation movement — Africa Day serves as a beacon of inspiration for an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa that is determined by its own citizens. And those citizens are now comprised of the youngest population anywhere in the world!

Now is the time for young people to be given a chance to lead the continent. Sixty percent of Africa’s 1.25 billion people are under the age of 25, and there has never been a more tech-savvy generation as today’s young people. In the last decade, we have seen the expansion of successful youth-owned ecommerce unicorns such as Sendy, Lori, and KOBO360, in East and West Africa. With the emergence of social media and new technology, young people have found new ways of mobilising and holding each other and those in power accountable for their actions and civic responsibilities.

But today’s youth face two existential crises at once: nature loss and climate change. They are experiencing first-hand the impacts of climate change and they view themselves as having the most to lose if they do not take action. They are rising to the challenge and holding their political leaders to account on both the ecological and climate crises.

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Brighton Kaoma (L), a WWF International President’s Awardee and Alice Ruhweza (R), WWF Regional Director for Africa

For example, The African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) formed in 2006 connects youth action around the continent. World Scouting and WWF are working together to raise awareness among young people and inspire action to protect nature and the environment. The Youth4Nature initiative is mobilizing youth to take action and advocate for political leaders to deliver up to 30% of the climate solutions needed by 2030 from nature-based solutions with a clear vision for the future. Movements like ‘Fridays for the Future’ have also been highly successful, mobilising 13 million young people across 7,500 cities to challenge political inaction on the changing climate.

Across Africa, we continue to see this vigorous energy exuded by young people who are taking centre stage to develop to their communities. WWF’s Education for Sustainable Development seeks to address the right of children and youth through education, improved healthcare, and a sustainable environment. With over 9.7 million weekly listeners, The Childrens Radio Foundation in South Africa has created a platform for 2,000 young radio broadcasters to ignite important conversations and build pathways aimed at strengthening their communities. Young people are at the centre of redefining how climate information is disseminated across five African countries.

The innovation of Africa’s youth has transcended the boundaries of the continent. Working with The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust has enabled us to cross-pollinate ideas across the African continent and the wider Commonwealth, connecting us to a global network of like-minded peers to share solutions and build impactful relationships. The energy and fire of young people is unquenchable — it shows us what a coterie of committed young leaders can do when they are properly supported.

As the burgeoning population of young Africans faced elevated unemployment and the troubling possibility of exclusion from the optimistic promise of their society, our youth mobilized to develop the African Youth Charter, which underlines the rights, duties, and freedoms of young people in Africa. Since then, we have seen strides in the creation of national programmes and strategic policies for youth development. However, with only 34 out of the 54 African countries having adopted a national youth policy, the remaining 16 countries have a duty to demonstrate that youth are a priority and their needs must be taken seriously.

As our continent struggles with social inequality, elite capture, extremism, xenophobia, and viral pandemics such as COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, we can take inspiration from our forefathers’ unity of purpose, which inspired them to unite in fostering an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa that is determined by its own citizens. With 375 million young people in Africa expected to reach working age by 2030, African governments have no choice but to incorporate youth voices in policy making.

On a momentous day such as today, we are reminded to reflect on the spirit of pan-Africanism and the value of service above self. In times of both peace and crisis, our forefathers chose to build bridges in place of walls, knowing fully the interdependent nature of individuals and nations. These bridges transcended artificial geographical separations and led to enhanced trade and commerce among African nations. We call on you, the youth of today, to rise to this challenge and be vigilant in your pursuit for the Africa our forefathers imagined and the Africa we want.

Date Published: 26th May 2020

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