Climate change is having an impact across Africa, from locust infestations in the east to disastrous droughts in the south, despite the region accounting for only 3% of global carbon emissions. As climate change takes its toll on the continent, over two-thirds of the continent’s young people are pressing for greater legislative action or attempting to lessen their individual carbon footprint.
Africa has the world’s youngest population, with 60% of its 1.25 billion people aged 25 or younger. And at last month’s United Nations (UN) climate negotiations, youth campaigners from Sudan to South Africa were loud in seeking greater emissions cuts from affluent countries.
The Ichikowitz Family Foundation, an African organisation, has collated new data from 4 500 face-to-face interviews with 18- to 24-year-olds throughout the continent, shedding light on the worries of young people in 15 nations.
Here are some of the primary issues raised by the African Youth Survey across the continent, from Angola to Gabon, Uganda to South Africa:
While 70% of Africa’s youth are concerned about climate change, the study revealed that fewer than half are content with how their leaders are dealing with it.
About 85% of those asked felt their governments should be more aggressive in tackling climate change, with Rwandans leading the way with 99%, Ethiopians with 95% and Malawians with 95%.
Apart from seeking stronger policy action, two-thirds said they actively support, participate in, or give to environmental initiatives, and 64% said they are attempting to decrease their carbon footprint.
According to Ineza Umuhoza Grace, founder of Rwandan eco-group Green Fighter, the study reveals Africa’s youth aspire to be “global actors in environmental activism” as climate campaigners like Uganda’s Vanessa Nakate become more well-known in Africa and beyond.
Infestation of the crop
More than three-quarters of those polled, expressed fear that climate change will lead to an increase in locust infestation and agricultural devastation, with Ethiopia (91%), Malawi (91%) and Kenya (91%) expressing the most anxiety (88%).
In recent years, East Africa has been battling locust infestations that have damaged crops and caused food poverty.
Last year, hundreds of millions of locusts rushed over Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya in the deadliest epidemic in a quarter-century, with Uganda, Eritrea and Djibouti all affected, according to the UN.
Warmer waters have increased the frequency of cyclones in the Indian Ocean, and torrential rains around the Arabian Peninsula have provided ideal circumstances for locust breeding in Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia’s deserts.
Pollution of the air
Around 78% of young people interviewed expressed concern about rising air pollution, with Ghanaians (92%), Ethiopians (89%) and Rwandans (89%) expressing the highest anxiety (88%).
According to the World Bank, air pollution from sources such as car exhaust fumes, industrial pollutants, fires, and residential heating and cooking kills roughly 16 000 Ghanaians each year.
According to The Lancet medical journal, such pollution caused around 1.1 million deaths throughout the continent in 2019.
According to a World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) estimate, over 1.2 million Africans would be displaced by floods and storms in 2020, more than double the number of individuals displaced by violence.
Heatwaves in eastern and southern Africa are expected to become increasingly severe even if global warming is kept below 1.5°C, according to climate researchers.