8 out of 10 youths in Africa see climate change as dangerous

Image: Youths participate in the COP 22 in Morocco in November this year - African Youth Initiative on Climate Change 

A new survey released December 2016 by South Africa's GC Consulting has found that many youths (eight in 10 young Africans) are convinced that climate change is affecting their lives negatively and are willing to take actions about it in future. The study also revealed that most youths recognize the important role governments, private sector and international agencies have to play in averting climate change effects.

The study, which was commissioned after the Marrakech UN Climate conference that was held in November this year, sampled youths from 19 countries including Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Most important issues for youths

Climate change revolves around several issues including renewable energy, deforestation, waste water treatment and climate funding, just to mention a few. Seven in 10 youths say that the most important initiatives to fight global warming are investing in more renewable energy and providing access to water. 92 percent said access to clean drinking water was a priority, says the study.

Those interviewed said droughts, fires, inundations, unpredictable rain, forest fires, cattle diseases, crop diseases, increase in desertification, and violent climate changes resulted from global warming.

Call to action

There has, in the recent past, been an increased call for the whole world to increase actions that help avert global crisis as a result of climate change. The study revealed that youths in Africa are also not ready to remain inactive, with many (69 percent) of those interviewed saying they have no intention of remaining inactive and would take action especially through recycling. Many of those interviewed support waste recycling (65 percent) initiatives and reduced use of plastics (64 percent).

Bill Gates also recently, in his 2016 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at the University of Pretoria, echoed the fact that African youth can play an important role in helping in climate change. In addition to youths having the potential to generate phenomenal economic growth, they are better than older people at driving innovation because they are not locked in by the limits of the past, he said, noting that many young people are already driving startup booms across Africa.

"In a few days, I’ll be meeting with some of these young innovators," said Gates. "People like the 21-year-old who founded Kenya’s first software coding school to provide other young people with computer programming skills. And like the 23-year-old social entrepreneur here in South Africa who manufactures schoolbags from recycled plastic shopping bags. Besides being highly visible to protect children as they’re walking to school, these school bags sport a small solar panel that charges a lantern during the journey to and from school — providing illumination so students can study when they get home."

Image: Repurpose Schoolbags, made from recycled plastic - CNN

He said life on the African continent can improve faster than it ever has if investments were made towards the right thing. Such as to provide youths with the basic needs that help them with physical, cognitive, and emotional resources they need to change the future.

The international community, including Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation already supports many innovations from young people in various areas including clean energy, sanitation and waste water treatment.

However, many youths recognize that the governments, private sector and international community needs to do more. 76 percent said governments needed to act fast against global warming although 53 percent said citizens were not doing enough. 75 percent thought alternatives at the African Union level would help, 73 percent thought action by international organizations was needful while 69 percent said private agencies at a sub-national level ought to do something.

The study involved a majority of men (55 percent) but people from both rural and urban areas. Those interviewed were aged between 18 and 30 and were informed by traditional media (48 percent) compared to 15 percent informed by internet and social networks. 13 percent said schools and universities played an important role in educating youths about environmental issues.

Although the study response was quite low at less than 2,000 responses, it gives an idea about the potential areas for action and policy making by various stakeholders in climate change related initiatives.

Youth climate change initiatives

Apart from supporting youth groups and individual climate innovations, there are many organizations in Africa, which bring together youths to help accelerate climate actions and capacity building. These include Rwanda's Youth Climate Action, which wants to inspire fresh thinking in Rwandan youths about environment matters; the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) that aims at connecting youths, sharing knowledge, ideas, experiences, skills and strategies on youth action around the continent on climate change mitigation and adaptation; and Namibia Youth Action Program, among many others.