- Youth leaders, entrepreneurs and policymakers presented the Africa Youth Climate Assembly Declaration to Kenya’s President William Ruto, and African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina.
- The declaration advocates for the accelerated establishment of a Global Green Bank and a New Global Financial Pact, aiming to prioritise young people and their interests in climate financing.
- During the Africa Youth Climate Assembly, a wide range of issues emerged including youth access to finance, Africa’s energy transition, the plight of millions displaced owing to the impacts of climate change and mobilisation of resources for sustainable development.
As the Africa Climate Summit draws to a close, a key highlight from the three-day summit is that Africa’s youth need to be more involved in the climate change conversation.
This, as youth leaders, entrepreneurs and policymakers presented the Africa Youth Climate Assembly Declaration to Kenya’s President, William Ruto, and African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina.
The Declaration, which was the culmination of the Africa Youth Climate Assembly held in Nairobi from 1-3 September, advocates for the accelerated establishment of a Global Green Bank and a New Global Financial Pact, aiming to prioritise young people and their interests in climate financing.
The delegates also called for the establishment of a UN Youth office to be based in Africa, the continent with the largest youth population on the planet.
During the Africa Youth Climate Assembly, a wide range of issues emerged including youth access to finance, Africa’s energy transition, the plight of millions displaced owing to the impacts of climate change and mobilisation of resources for sustainable development.
Youth unemployment rate
The African Development Bank reports that while 10 million to 12 million youth enter the workforce in Africa each year, only 3 million formal jobs are created annually.
A report by the International Labour Organisation dubbed “Global Employment Trends for Youth 2022: Africa” further indicates that Africa is the region with the youngest population and the numbers of African young people are expected to continue to increase rapidly in the foreseeable future.
“In Africa, youth unemployment remains below the world average for both women and men. However, this fact masks substantial differences across the region, with youth unemployment ranging from almost 30 percent in Northern Africa – where almost every other woman in the labour force is unemployed – down to 11 percent in sub-Saharan Africa,” the International Labour Organisation notes.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the low unemployment rates among young people partially reflect the fact that many cannot afford to stay unemployed but need to engage in insecure – often low-productivity – jobs for income.
Over the past few years, young people in Africa have had to face the consequences of the recent setbacks to the global economy.
The COVID-19 pandemic put significant socio-economic pressure on the region, with the impacts of global and local lockdowns, value chain disruptions and widespread economic downturns resulting in significant negative effects.
Additionally, recent environmental hazards and erupting conflicts in some parts of the continent have taken a heavy toll on the economic prospects of many countries.
The report further indicates that globally, unemployment among young people is more than three times more common than among adults.
Using Climate Change to create jobs
In response to the Declaration, President Ruto and the Bank Chief recognised Africa’s youth as the biggest asset for Africa and the whole world, praising their dynamism and innovation.
Dr Ruto and Dr Adesina backed the youths’ demand for greater involvement in setting national and international climate policies.
President Ruto emphasised the importance of investing in youth and highlighted Africa’s agricultural potential due to its vast uncultivated lands (65 per cent of the world’s total), which he said could foster job creation and boost wealth.
Kenya’s Head of State further highlighted his government’s initiative to establish smart cities to tackle unsustainable settlements and cut pollution in a bid to foster environmentally sustainable development.
“One way of investing in young people is by providing quality education and skills to help them tackle future challenges,” Dr Ruto said, adding that his government had committed the largest budget in the country’s history to education – 630 billion KES (around $433 million), representing over 27 per cent of the total annual budget.
Dr Adesina echoed similar sentiments, highlighting the critical nature of youth investment in fostering growth and stability on the continent.
Youth need investment
“The biggest risk in this continent is not investing in the youth,” Dr Adesina said, adding that, “The youth need investment, not empowerment.”
To illustrate this point, Dr Adesina said that the African Development Bank set up the Jobs for Youth strategy to provide 25 million jobs.
“So far, we have developed 15 million jobs: 10 million in the formal sector and five million in the informal sector,” he noted.
He said the African Development Bank had also invested $4 million to support the ideas of young people under the YouthADAPT program, a partnership with the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA).
As part of its partnership with GCA, the Bank is also supporting the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program, which is the largest such program in the world, to mobilise $25 billion to scale adaptation actions across Africa.
Voice of youth cannot be ignored
President William Ruto challenged the youth to assume their rightful position in the climate change conversation noting that this age group is so powerful that its voice can no longer be left unheard.
The Head of State observed that there were plans to incorporate a youth representative into the African Union (AU).
“We will ensure that the next summit of the AU has youth, not as attendees but with a statement on what they think the outfit should do,” he said.
He emphasised the need for Africa’s carbon assets to be accurately valued, calling for the establishment of a carbon market aligned with global pricing standards. “We are not going to take peanuts. Our carbon assets must account for our assets and must be valued correctly,” he said.
He observed that Africa is neither poor nor desperate but a wealthy continent that needs to properly profile and value its fortunes.
“Africa has huge renewable resources that is not yet captured in its asset books.”
President Ruto asked the youth, who he termed as energetic and creative, to take charge and position themselves at the centre of driving the new narrative about Africa. He further urged African governments to increase their investments in green opportunities to unlock the continent’s potential. Kenya’s President also called for investment in renewable energy, green industrialization, climate-smart agriculture, and nature conservation.
He said this would accelerate global decarbonization, fuel sustainable development, drive economic growth, and create millions of jobs.
“We must see in green growth not just a climate imperative, but also a fountain of multi-billion-dollar economic opportunities that Africa and the World are primed to capitalise on,” he said.
The youth declaration
The demands of the Youth Declaration will be factored into the Nairobi Declaration, a key outcome of the Africa Climate Summit.
The Nairobi Declaration will serve as a blueprint for Africa’s green energy transition.
The Youth Declaration draws inspiration from a number of sources including the African Development Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy (2016-2025) and its Climate Change and Green Growth Strategy.
It also draws on the African Union Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan.