African Youth and Climate Change: A Matter of Representation

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climate change. Roberto Vigotti

Africa’s population is the youngest and fastest-growing in the world: almost 60% of it is under 25, and it’s expected to double by 2050.

This piece of information brings to the table numerous questions: will it be a resource or a challenge?

How is such an increase going to impact our productive models? Will the African countries create enough opportunities and services for their newcomers? There is, however, a question so urgent that it overshadows all the others: which Africa will climate change bequeath to the young generations?

Addressing this doubt is one of the most compelling challenges of our century, a challenge with strong practical and ethical nuances.

Studies show that more than 70% of young Africans are affected by a condition typical of our times, the so called “eco-anxiety”. Africa’s youth is concerned about the future environmental trends, and bases this feeling of uneasiness in the observation of the current phenomena: 91% of young Ethiopians are worried that crop infestations and destruction caused by insects will increase in frequency and magnitude, while 90% of Rwanda’s youth expressed concern about floods and cyclones.

Africa’s young generations are harbouring a feeling of worry which, nonetheless, is coupled by an unmatched degree of awareness about climate change, and the potential related solutions such as renewable energy and sustainable business practices. Youth is endowed with an incomparable capacity to create, change and innovate, which can turn into pure gold when it comes to African societies, currently experiencing whirling technological, environmental and business evolutions, difficult to identify and predict for older segments of the population.

In an idyllic world, this would be enough, for them, to take the matters into their own hands and drive the climate change governance. However, unfortunately, this is not the case: more than 85% of young Africans are dissatisfied with their governments, as they believe they aren’t being proactive enough to fight climate change. Policymaking and governing bodies offer little or no space for youth representatives, virtually excluding them from major decision-making processes, and producing outcomes which are often questionable and not bold enough: an unforgivable mistake and a systematically wasted opportunity.

Our best shot is to act, and to do it now. Africa’s youth must be at the centre of the energy transition, and to do so it must be trained, empowered and involved. At RES4Africa, we fulfil this multiple purpose through different tools: capacity building (Micro-Grid Academy, ATC),financing and empowerment (MGA Young Talent of the Year Award), and, last but not least, representation.

That’s why we recently launched the Youth Task Force, a panel of young representatives from important international organizations operating in the renewable energy sector. Their primary task is to convey youth’s voice to the decision-making layers, influencing the policymaking environment and carving out an energy transition which valorises and fulfils the needs and opinions of young Africans, instead of overshadowing them.

This is the way to go, and we hope to see this type of initiatives being scaled up every day more. Young Africans are not mere bystanders or contributors to the energy transition, but their real protagonists. Failing to acknowledge it (and to react coherently) would mean to raise the white flag, accepting the relentless deterioration of our climate and our societies.  

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Roberto Vigotti

Roberto Vigotti

Roberto Vigotti is the Secretary General of RES4Africa Foundation, which gathers more than 30 stakeholders to accelerate the renewable energy transformation in Africa, with Africa and for Africa. In his 30+ year-long career he has covered various positions at Enel, University of Pisa, IEA and IRENA. When it was still considered an unlikely option, he was already convinced that deploying renewable energy in Africa would result in a positive socioeconomic impact for its population. In 2012, he therefore embarked on the RES4Africa adventure, to support a wider participation of private players in delivering investments in Africa. He also coordinates renewAfrica, an industry-backed Initiative that advocates the creation of a European comprehensive Programme for RE investments in Africa, to be promoted and owned by EU institutions

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