One of Africa’s strengths is that we have the youngest population. And a fresh generation of persistent voices, innovators, change makers, and action-takers are making sure the world sees the continent with fresh eyes, and that Africa itself rose from the ashes of vulnerability.
Lack of development as well as high rates of inequality and poverty across Africa have long been perceived as a burden on the rest of the world, presented as things to pity rather than things that need solving. This outlook is one that has to evolve in order for true change to occur on the continent. Luckily, young people are standing up and speaking out for what Africa deserves.
“No more, empty promises. No more, empty summits, No more, empty conferences,” asserted Nakate at last year’s pre –COP26 summit. As the year revealed that globally, we are tired of dealing with significant issues in the same old ways and expecting radical improvements. This was a message that echoed loud and clear after young climate activist Vanessa Nakate spoke at the summit in 2021.
This tone was carried all throughout 2021 as the world continued to reckon with COVID-19, a worsening climate crisis, and increased global inequality. As such, 2022 will be defined by the need for action, and nowhere is this more pertinent than on the African continent.
Thankfully, young activists have been captaining this need for action, and we cannot wait to see what they will do next. These are a few youth leaders and change-makers that we will be looking out for in 2022 and beyond.
EMMANUEL COSMOS MSOKA – TANZANIA
Tanzanian Children’s Right Activist Emmanuel Cosmos Msoka is a UNICEF Youth Advocate for water, sanitation, and hygiene. The young innovator created a pedal-powered hand washing machine in 2020 to help combat COVID-19 in his community, and with the help of local organizations, has supplied over 400 hand washing stations across northern Tanzania over the course of a year.
His interest in innovation and volunteering has led him to encourage other people of his age to come up with inventive solutions to significant problems, and to call on young people to become generational leaders.
STACY OWINO – KENYA
Three years later, Owino is not only a determined young woman studying STEM, but she is also an African representative on the Youth Sounding Board for the European Commission and was honoured at last year’s Young Activist summit held at the UN in Geneva for her work towards eradicating FGM.
When asked why it was important for African girls to take up space, Stacy said “something the world needs to know is that things are changing and we as African youth are really taking up these spaces. We are not going to let you tell us about us. We will tell you about ourselves.”
ALAA SALAH – SUDAN
Two years ago, Alaa Salah was dubbed Sudan’s “Nubian Queen” when she stood up for the country’s revolution. The 25 years old went viral after videos of her dressed in white, standing atop a car, and reciting a rousing poem, circulated on social media.
Salah showed courage in putting herself at the forefront of the movement in a country where women’s voices are heavily restricted. She was later shortlisted for the Noble Peace Price, and the image of her in white has become a symbol of freedom for citizens in Sudan.
This symbol is key to 2022 because, although her efforts and the efforts of other Sudanese women helped move the country towards democracy in 2019 the end of 2021 saw the transitional government being dissolved into a military coup, and the beginning of this year has been unrest in the country as it tries to establish a functional government.
While Sudan has yet to become stable in its freedom, Salah’s influence has kept Sudanese women going in their effort to stand up for their country.
TREVOR OAHILE – BOTSWANA
“Don’t Get It Twisted.” The show addresses young people, particularly boys and men, and explores ways in which they can be better informed about the stigmas surrounding reproductive health.
Oahile also works with UNEPA, the United Nation’s sexual and reproductive health agency, to run training programs across the country, speaking about social accountability and empowering other youth activists in Botswana.
LEAH NAMUGERWA – UGANDA
From dedicating her birthday to replanting trees in her community, to establishing a petition to pressure the Ugandan government to ban single-use plastic, 18-year-old Leah is already a force to be reckoned with in the climate activism space.
Inspired by fellow activist Greta Thunberg, Namugerwa began striking on Fridays in front of the Ugandan parliament at just 14 years old. Today, she continues to advocate for banning plastic in her country, access to water and sanitation for vulnerable community members, and the protection of Africa’s trees and forests against the climate crisis.