African youths constitute about 60 percent of the continent’s 1.2 billion population, and they represent a vibrant force to reckon with.
Popularly referred to as “Gen Z,” as they come up with innovative and constructive ideas to tackle existing challenges on the continent, they are indirectly aware of climate change because, like every other person on the continent, they feel the brunt of the adverse effects of climate change on Africa.
Though they bear the brunt as well, that has not put them directly in a position to contribute meaningfully to finding lasting solutions to the challenges brought upon the continent by climate change.
To change this narrative and ensure the continent has a generation of people who are well-versed in climate issues and have ideas on how to tackle them, relevant authorities across Africa need to bring the youths up to date with climate change happenings around them and how important it is to be intentional about saving the continent from its adverse effects.
How, then, will this become a reality? Answers to this question will be provided in this article, which dwells on ways and manners through which climate consciousness can be inculcated in the minds of African youths so that they can get actively involved in their environment for good.
If there is one thing you cannot take away from the present generation, it is their alertness. Given that advantage, it becomes the responsibility of every adult to see to it that the youth get better information about climate impacts and know the paths to take.
Giving out the information entails actively engaging them in conversations and decision-making on adaptation, mitigation, and reduction processes of climate change impacts, and these can be achieved through the various means highlighted below.
Educating the youth on climate change and environmental sustainability
One major thing needed to get youths conscious of the happenings around them and get them actively involved is continuous education and awareness. This is important because, with adequate education and enlightenment, the youth will know what to do and can also, in turn, take steps to enlighten others and come up with other initiatives to save their environments.
It is also imperative for climate education and other environmentally related education to be included in school curriculums for both the youth and younger ones in African schools to catch them young and build their consciousness right from a tender age.
Other than through the school curriculum, another way through which climate change education can be passed on to the younger generation is through the use of social media, which Gen Z takes solace in.
Gen Z has a so-called addiction to social media, which could be translated to good use if deployed effectively because, through social media, relevant bodies, governments, and non-governmental organisations can engage the youths to raise their consciousness on environmental issues that affect them while also bringing them to the realisation of what they can do to change things.
For instance, the social media platform TikTok, having seen the level of engagement on the platform, is using it to drive advocacy on climate action and environmental sustainability.
Launched in November 2022 in support of the COP 27 gathering, it provides opportunities for organisations and community members to discuss, debate, and share information on important environmental topics.
Engagements such as this can also be considered for sponsorship by governments and others on other social media platforms that the youth identify with to keep them abreast of climate change situations.
Currently, across the various countries on the continent, there are several awareness initiatives carried out daily sponsored by governments, NGOs, and foreign bodies, like the Innovation for Climate Change Challenge held in Lagos and supported by the British Council for youth participants from across Africa, but there is a need for more of such initiatives to reach as many youths as possible.
Under the climate change action pact, every country has a nationally determined contribution (NDC) target that they strive to achieve.
In attaining this goal, African countries will need the skills and engagement of young people, which will also help build their mindset, making it a win-win for both parties.
Already, records have it that some youths have committed to doing little things to talk about the adverse effects of climate change; more can still be done in that regard where the youths are engaged through volunteering with organisations to spearhead various environmental initiatives.
They can also be actively engaged in participating in various government, school, community, and non-governmental initiatives like tree planting, waste recycling initiatives, community clean-ups, environmental campaigns, and the like.
All these engagements can be done physically or through social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and others.
Investing in youth-led solutions
Just as mentioned earlier, African youths are innovative and focused on finding solutions to some of the problems facing the continent in ways different from those of generations before them.
Environmentally, they are developing products that can aid the green economy targeted by the Africa Union for the continent.
From Uganda to Nigeria, Kenya, Chad, South Africa, Rwanda, and other African countries, many young entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative ideas for a green economy that can be supported.
Most of these innovative ideas and products by the young ones on sustaining the economy need credible funding support to stay afloat and be able to make meaningful contributions to their society. As such, they need the support of governments and other relevant agencies, businesses, private individuals, and other stakeholders to fund their innovations towards changing the environment.
This support can come in the form of the provision of necessary equipment, policy frameworks, tax incentives, development training, grants, loans, and the like, which focuses on encouraging the younger generation to create the needed solutions and increase the actions taken on tackling climate change.
Youth Inclusion in Decision-Making
Anywhere in the world, the act of inclusiveness has proven to be important in the attainment of any goal.
To ensure that African youths do not only get anxious about climate change impacts without an adequate idea of what to do to change them, they must also be adequately included in the scheme of events and activities towards that goal.
The young people need to be allowed to be represented in the decision-making and implementation bodies of recognised and strategic committees of government at all levels, from community to national, saddled with the responsibility of taking decisions for the continent.
By doing this, they would be able to contribute their quota in whatever form, no matter how minimal, to help society.
The youth are the leaders of tomorrow, and if we all agree, tomorrow is here, and we must engage them meaningfully so that they can better society.
Imagine an African society where drought, flooding, heat waves, desertification, and other adverse effects of climate change are reduced to the bare minimum through the combined efforts of her citizens, the youth.
Yes, this is possible and would lead the continent towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, but that is only if and only if we all rise to do what is expected of us by the youths to teach them the way to go so that when they grow, they do not depart from it.