Hundreds of young people from across Africa are demanding a significant role in decision making for climate action.
Youth leaders, entrepreneurs and policymakers presented the Africa Youth Climate Assembly Declaration to Kenya’s President, William Ruto, and African Development Bank Group President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina.
The Declaration, which was the culmination of the Africa Youth Climate Assembly held in Nairobi from September 1 to 3, 2023, 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.
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. Ruto and Adesina backed their demand for greater involvement in setting national and international climate policies.
The two leaders responded to questions from youths in a two-hour session moderated by African Youth Climate Assembly Lead Coordinator, Elizabeth Watuthi, on a wide range of issues 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.
President Ruto emphasised the importance of investing in youth and highlighted Africa’s agricultural potential due to its vast uncultivated lands (65% of the world’s total), which he said could foster job creation and boost wealth.
Ruto 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, Ruto said. He said his government had committed the largest budget in the country’s history to education – 630 billion KES (around $433 million), representing over 27% of the total annual budget.
Adesina echoed similar sentiments, underscoring the critical nature of youth investment in fostering growth and stability on the continent.
“The biggest risk in this continent is not investing in the youth,” Adesina said, adding: “The youth need investment, not empowerment.” To illustrate this point, Adesina said the African Development set up the Jobs for Youth strategy to provide 25 million jobs. “So far, we have developed 15 million jobs: ten million in the formal sector and five million in the informal sector.”
He said the African Development Bank had also invested $4 million to support the ideas of young people under the YouthADAPT programme, a partnership with the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA). As part of its partnership with GCA, the Bank is also supporting the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme, “which is the largest such program in the world, to mobilise $25 billion to scale adaptation actions across Africa,” Adesina said.
The closing ceremony of the Youth Assembly signaled the start of the Africa Climate Summit and Africa Climate Week. The parallel events brings together African stakeholders to further consolidate the successes of last year’s COP27 in Egypt. They will also build consensus around Africa’s expectations for the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit in New York later this month as well as the COP 28 conference to be held in Dubai in November.
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.