The youth speak up on climate change

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It started as a rumble that no one took too seriously… and soon it became an uproar – an uprising of young people around the world urgently calling for action to fight climate change.

A golden thread in their narrative: this is the world that they stand to inherit. If there is a world for them to inherit. On a daily basis, we experience the effects of rising greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and overconsumption through climate change. All of this puts to question what kind of world this will be for future generations.

When the rest of us are no longer here, the youth will be facing these challenges, and the sooner we address climate change the better.

The youth speak up on climate change


Globally, Greta Thunberg soon became the face of these young voices and by the time she was 15, in 2018, and addressing world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference – it was no longer about the novelty of youth speaking truth to power. The world was starting to pay attention, and take seriously what these future leaders had to say.

But the journey was still long and challenging – after all, this was more than just about the grabbing the headlines.

While seen as figurehead, Greta was certainly not alone in this fight – from East to West a movement had already formed. Closer to home, here in Africa, young leaders had been doing the work and while the COVID-19 pandemic took central stage, their work continued.  

Around the world, young people continue to rise up, speak up about the state of the world now – and what they are looking to inherit as future leaders of this world.

The youth speak up on climate change

PICTURE SOURCE: Global Citizen – Nasief Manie/AP

During the 2021 Africa Shared Value Leadership Summit, for the first time, we created a platform where entrepreneurs from across the continent would have an opportunity to speak about the climate smart as well as agricultural innovations – and how through their work they were contributing to climate action but also economic growth on the continent.

Mucho Mangoes tackles food waste as well as food insecurity; Organic Ilemba uses technology to create urban aquaculture systems that reuse water and offer environmentally friendly land-based fish farming solutions; Kofar Kenya Ltd recycles vegetative waste into a fortified compost and sell it together with soil conditioners to the farmers to improve their soil fertility and increase quality yields; and Kiru Energy aims to enable better, affordable access to green energy for communities and businesses.

This is just a small sample of a growing army of African SMMEs, some from the SVAI network. The youth is demonstrating through their work that there is potential to affect change in society as well as the environment. They have taken what would have made them victims tomorrow, and turned it into business opportunities today.

This month, South Africa marked Youth month, but for the SVAI, as a pan-African organisation, we lift up the youth of the whole continent and the work they do to not only speak up and innovate through climate smart solutions that respond to environmental challenges faced by the continent.

It’s a sad truth that Africa contributes only 4% to global gas emissions, but we are one of the continents that are severely affected by climate change. As businesses and enterprises, civil society and governments, we need to consider how our strategies and daily operations respond to this effect – but ultimately how we can innovate and respond to climate change, ensuring that our communities are not caught on the back foot.

When the youth speak, the world needs to not only listen – but join hands with them so we can act together for the change that is needed.