I speak on behalf of African youth

I speak on behalf of African youth

My name is Deon Shekuza and today I speak on behalf my fellow African youth. While on a trip in Cape Town, South Africa in 1966, Robert F. Kennedy said: “This world demands the qualities of youth, not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”
It is thus imperatively clear that the youth of Africa must be fully engaged and involved in the battle against climate change and environmental degradation. In order to bring on board their passion, energy, creativity, and ingenuity.
Africa is losing 40 per cent of its productive land due to land degradation while desertification is expanding parallel to a growing population.
With 50 per cent of the African population under 20 years now it is estimated that “almost two billion babies will be born in Africa in the next 35 years.”
Over the same period, “Africa’s under-18 population will increase by two-thirds, reaching almost one billion by mid-century; and close to half of the world population of children will be African by the end of the 21st century.
With the adverse impacts of drought the land capacity will not be able to meet the food security, water, and nutrition demands of the future.
The prolonged dry spells and El Nino effect have seen several southern African countries facing food shortages and extreme droughts such as Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, and Namibia.
Once again, young people are at the centre of this epidemic and the best measure of preparedness is to capacitate the youth because future droughts will be theirs to experience.
The effects of drought are becoming inextricably linked to poverty, HIV/AIDS and other pandemic viruses such as Ebola, gender-based violence, adolescence pregnancies and unemployment.
Drought impacts in the central, northern, western and eastern Sahel regions exacerbate the socio-economic conditions and displace young people who are then forced to migrate to Europe and travel through the harsh Sahara desert. Thereafter spending up to US$1000 to cross the Mediterranean Sea but many do not make it out alive.
Extended drought conditions also make young people vulnerable and susceptible to terrorist groups such as Boko-Haram who use them as potential recruits to carry out attacks and therefore destabilising peace and security in those areas.
This historic African drought conference is the perfect opportunity to institutionalise youth involvement, set a road map and framework for more young people to get involved in sustainable land management practices and conservation agriculture.
As stipulated in the African Youth Charter Article 11: “States parties shall take the following measures to promote active youth participation in society; They shall: facilitate the creation or strengthening of platforms for youth participation in decision-making at local, national, regional, and continental levels of governance.”
And subsequently Article 18, under sustainable development and protection of the environment, which states: “States parties shall recognize the vested interest of young people in protecting the natural environment as the inheritors of the environment.”
In this regard, they shall: “a) encourage the media, youth organizations, in partnership with national and international organizations, to produce, exchange and disseminate information on environmental preservation and best practices to protect the environment.”
And also: “Train youth in the use of technologies that protect and conserve the environment; Support youth organizations in instituting programs that encourage environmental preservation such as waste reduction, recycling, and tree planting programs;
Facilitate youth participation in the design, implementation, and evaluation of environmental policies including the conservation of African natural resources at local, national, regional and international levels.”
We thus recommend in order to fast track drought mitigation, adaptation, and preparation, we urgently need more collaboration, coordination and partnerships of different youth organizations, coalitions and initiatives across Africa.
Once we strengthen and integrate this networks the youth will create synergies and exchange innovative ideas while sharing practices and resources.
This will also accelerate the targets implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the COP21 in Paris, Agenda 2063 and also expanding the Great Green Wall Initiative in southern Africa.
There is also a need for more access to financing mechanisms and funding toward youth delegates to attend summits, conferences, and workshops in order to increase the number of participants and accommodate a broader and wider group especially those from rural areas.
According to the United Nations Population Fund as of 2015, around 175 million young people in low-income countries cannot read a full sentence. Among those aged 15-24, some 500 million live on less than US$2 a day, and over 73 million are unemployed.
These large group of out-of-school and unemployed young people can serve as the link between national policies and grassroots implementation and communities because I believe with good guidance one does not necessarily need a degree to work the land, conserve water, save energy or plant a tree.
Wangari Maathai once said: “In a few decades, the relationship between the environment, resources, and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy, and peace.”
Therefore in the spirit of Harambee and Ubuntu facilitating this platforms will promote pan-Africanism and intra-African trade amongst the youth and as future leaders, we will learn to work together in cohesion and not isolation while combating climate change and developing the future of Africa.
• Deon Shekuza is a Namibia Youth Leader and Activist made this speech on behalf of African Youth at the African Drought Conference in Windhoek this week.

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