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Tanzania: Weaving a Sustainable Future with African Youth at the Helm

“We had to make a statement that Africa does not want to be victims of climate change, but rather champions of climate action.”

In the face of a disproportionate burden, African youth joined forces with leaders, amplifying their calls for urgent climate action. Amid the vibrant tapestry of the Africa Youth Assembly and the inaugural Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya, two young voices from Tanzania reverberated with unwavering conviction.

Reuben Chacha and Ayoub Mbumila, representatives of Restless Development, spoke with conviction and authority, their words intertwining to create a symphony of hope and resilience. Bound by their shared passion for environmental stewardship, the duo embarks on a mission to amplify the voices of their peers, gathering stories of resilience and innovation from across the continent.

Their mission – to weave a narrative of resilience and innovation, showcasing the transformative power of African youth in the face of the climate crisis.

Chacha and Mbumila delivered a clarion call to action for African youth, urging them to rise up and become the protagonists of change during an interview with allAfrica‘s Melody Chironda. Their words, brimming with passion and conviction, echoed the urgency of the moment, urging their generation to rise up and claim their rightful place as changemakers.

Chacha is a Climate Change and Youth Leadership Programs Officer at Restless Development Tanzania. He has a background in environmental engineering and has been working with Restless Development since 2018. He has experience implementing water, sanitation, and hygiene programs, as well as entrepreneurship and education programs. He is a passionate advocate for climate change action and supports the development of proposals around climate change.

“I have been involved in the youth leadership program since 2018, and I am excited that Restless Development has added climate change as a priority area. I am committed to working with young people to address this urgent challenge,” said Chacha.

Mbumila is a climate change activist who has been involved in the cause since 2016. He started his journey as a volunteer with Restless Development in a project called ICS International Citizen Service. Today, he is the Global Communications Coordinator at Restless Development International in Tanzania, where he amplifies the voices of young people through social media, manages consultants, crafts impactful stories about youth beneficiaries, and oversees the organization’s newsletter.

Key Takeaways from African Climate Summit – A Call for Action

Chacha said that the Africa Climate Summit is the roadmap to transforming the narrative of Africa, as reflected in the summit’s theme, showing the continent’s growing resolve to take action on the climate emergency.

“The summit shows that African countries are committed to finding solutions to the climate crisis. By working together, they can develop solutions that will help the entire globe. These solutions must address the three main challenges of climate change: pollution, biodiversity loss, and rising sea levels,” said Chacha.

The first of its kind, the assembly brought together more than 20 African heads of state, EU representatives, and other European officials to discuss how Africa can be a leader in developing solutions to the global climate crisis. Despite emitting only a small percentage of global greenhouse gases, Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to the effects of climate change. Droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events are already taking a toll on African communities, and the continent is projected to be disproportionately affected by climate change in the future.

Chacha highlighted the significance of the summit, which brought together young people from more than 10 African countries.

“The summit facilitated a dialogue between young people, where they exchanged ideas and learned from each other. Most importantly, the summit resulted in the drafting of the Youth Declaration, which outlines the demands of young people for climate action,” he said. ” We have produced a youth declaration with recommendations from young people on how decision-makers can address the climate crisis. We hope that the implementation of these recommendations will help to mitigate the effects of climate change, if not solve it altogether.”

“For example, Kenya has taken the commendable initiative of adopting a carbon credit system. This is a groundbreaking move that other countries can learn from,” he added. ” African heads of state have issued a declaration on climate change, and all countries are committed to implementing its terms. This is a positive development that could help to make progress on this global challenge.”

“Heads of state who have attracted investment in green initiatives are showing that governments can help to reduce emissions by focusing on these initiatives. If countries also focus on supporting youth initiatives, young people will be well-positioned to help end climate change,” said Chacha.

“The key takeaway from the summit for me is that young people from African countries have come together to draft a declaration that outlines their demands for meaningful engagement on climate change. They are hopeful that decision-makers will implement their recommendations and that young people will be meaningfully engaged in the fight against climate change,” added Chacha.

Echoing Chacha’s remarks, Mbumila said that the cornerstone of the African Youth Climate Assembly has been the marginalization of Africa for quite some time. Despite contributing only 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is one of the most affected continents by climate change.

“In fact, 17 of the 20 countries in the world that are most severely affected by climate change are in Africa,” he said. ” We had to make a statement that Africa does not want to be victims of climate change, but rather champions of climate action.”

Mbumila said that when it comes to key takeaways, he would like to highlight some of the most important elements that he found engaging.

“First of all, the regional collaboration that the African Youth Climate Assembly has provided has given African young people the opportunity to come together, collaborate, share experiences and expertise, as well as best practices in addressing climate change,” he said. ” I firmly believe that regional cooperation can greatly amplify the impact of our climate actions. When it comes to combating climate change, we cannot work in isolation. We need to come together as a team, as a continent, and collaborate to fight the effects of climate change.”

“The second thing I saw was the strong youth engagement. Climate change is a very important issue, and young people are essential to fighting the climate crisis. There has been a lot of involvement of young activists and leaders like us. Youth voices bring fresh perspectives, and young people are innovative and creative. They are bringing new solutions to the table.”

“The third thing I noticed was the need for accountability. Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, spoke about this and emphasized that we, as African Youth Climate Champions, need to champion a tracking system to track all the promises that are made. This is the only way to hold leaders accountable, as there have been many promises made in the past with no delivery.”

Mbumila added: “We need a tracking system to hold leaders accountable for their commitments and actions. We also need transparent reporting and monetary mechanisms to ensure that the promises made by leaders translate into tangible and actionable results. This is essential to ensure climate justice, which is something that truly caught my attention.  Climate change has been disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities in Africa. This summit was an important opportunity to reflect on how climate action can be more equitable and just and to ensure that marginalized groups are not left behind. I was glad to see the representation of these communities at the summit, as they have often been ignored or silenced in the past.”

“I was impressed to see the representation of the Maasai at the summit. I believe that indigenous communities have a very close connection to the land and their voices are essential as we embark on this journey to a greener and more sustainable world. I found their involvement to be incredibly inspiring,” said Mbumila.

Green Jobs – The Key to Sustainable Economic Growth

Green jobs are not just about saving the planet. They are also about creating good-paying jobs that can help people build a sustainable future.

“Green jobs have a huge potential to help us address climate change. They are clean and renewable, so they don’t harm the environment or the atmosphere,” Chacha said. “To make this happen, we need to educate young people about the impacts of climate change. Many people in rural areas, for example, are not aware of the term “climate change” or its effects. Young people do not have access to information about climate change, climate financing, or carbon credits. Despite this, they are facing the impacts of climate change.”

“For example, farmers who are experiencing low crop yields may not realize that this is due to climate change. The changing rainfall patterns that are causing the low harvests are a direct result of climate change. The first thing that we need to do is to raise awareness in the community about climate science and how it is affecting them. Once people understand the science, they will be more likely to take action to address climate change,” he said. “Once people understand climate change, I hope they will take ownership of the problem and seek solutions to end it. For example, in areas where people do not have access to clean water or good infrastructure, such as roads that are passable during the rainy season, these impacts are a direct result of climate change.”

“When we raise awareness in the community about the impacts of climate change, such as food shortages, floods, and droughts, young people will be more likely to pursue careers that aim to address the climate crisis. For example, I was planning to not go to university, but when I learned about the climate crisis, I decided to study environmental science so that I could help find solutions.”

“When I was younger, I dreamed of becoming an engineer,” Chacha said. “I didn’t know what kind of engineering I wanted to pursue, but I was excited about the opportunity to use my skills to make a difference in the world. After graduating from high school, I decided to go to a university that offered a digital engineering program. I believe that digital engineering is a field with a lot of potential to help address the challenges of climate change and industrialization.”

“I realized that industrialization leads to air and water pollution, so I studied environmental engineering to help address climate change. We should educate young people about climate change in a way they can understand, and show them how they can make a difference,” said Chacha.

What Should Be Done?

Mbumila said that green jobs are essential to our journey toward a greener and more sustainable future. He agreed with Chacha that we need to communicate climate change in a way that young people can understand and relate to.

“Based on my years of research, I have noticed that there are many jargon and technical terms that can be difficult to understand when it comes to the concept of climate change. Young people do not understand the discussions on decarbonization, climate financing, and other related topics,” he said. “First, we need to communicate the concept of climate change in a language that people can understand, especially young people. This is a very important step in ensuring that young people understand the concepts and are prepared to take action on climate change.”

“We also need to make sure that young people have access to climate financing. A transparent system of climate financing is essential for a sustainable future,” Mbumila added.

Chacha said in Tanzania, after graduating from high school, students can apply for loans to help pay for their university studies. These loans are prioritized based on the program of study, with medical programs being given the highest priority. This means that young people are more likely to choose to study medicine, as they know that the government will fund their studies. Chacha believes that the government should prioritize climate change programs in universities and provide scholarships to students who study climate change or related fields. They should also raise awareness about green jobs through school programs and public awareness campaigns.

“Green jobs are important because they can reduce emissions and create employment opportunities. For example, shifting from charcoal to biogas can help to reduce deforestation, and the development of eco-industrial parks can create new jobs while also protecting the environment. By providing financial support, raising awareness, and creating jobs, the government can help to ensure that young people are able to pursue careers in this important field,” said Chacha.

With unwavering resolve, Mbumila agreed.

“I believe that green jobs are a great opportunity for young people. They offer opportunities for both skilled and unskilled workers, and they can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, and protect biodiversity,” he said. “For example, the ecotourism and outdoor recreation industry is growing rapidly. These jobs promote sustainable travel, outdoor adventure, and responsible exploration of natural environments. I know that many of the young people who attended the Africa Youth Climate Assembly had the opportunity to visit the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi National Park. This is a great example of how green jobs can create employment opportunities while also protecting the environment.”

Mbumila added that another important area of green jobs is sustainable agriculture. President of Kenya William Ruto has spoken about the importance of young people getting involved in agriculture. He believes that the next millionaires and billionaires of Africa will come from this sector. Jobs relating to sustainable farming practices, organic farming, and regenerative agriculture are all in high demand.”

Can COP28 Be a Turning Point for Young People?

Chacha believes that the committee responsible for selecting COP28 delegates should ensure that they represent a variety of regions and include new faces, especially young people who have never had the opportunity to attend a COP before.

He added that at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, we saw that young people were often excluded from important decision-making discussions. “We were only allowed to participate in side events, which had little impact on policy change. I believe that COP28 should be different. Young people should be given a seat at the table in high-level discussions, where they can share their ideas and perspectives. Additionally, the process for developing the Youth Declaration in Nairobi was not transparent. Most young people I spoke to had no idea how the Declaration was created. This raises the question of who actually wrote it and who it represents. I believe that young people must be meaningfully engaged in the development of all climate change negotiations that affect them. We should not be left out of the decision-making process,” he said.

“I believe that COP28 can be a turning point for young people,” Chacha said. “It can be a place where we are finally given a voice and a seat at the table. I urge the organizers of COP28 to listen to the demands of young people and to make meaningful engagement a priority.”

Mbumila said that he believes that young people’s voices are not being heard in decision-making platforms.

“Leaders hold the world’s future in their hands, but they are not listening to the majority. Young people make up half of the world’s population, but they are being excluded, especially those from countries most severely affected by the climate crisis,” he said. “The exclusion of young people from global decision-making processes poses a serious threat to the success of all these global agreements, declarations, and paperwork.”

Mbumila said that this is why Restless Development launched the Missing Majority campaign at COP27 last year. The campaign calls for increased youth participation and voice across global processes that are seeking to address the most pressing crises of our time. The Missing Majority campaign has provided a platform for young people to be heard and share their stories. It demands great ambition from leaders to ensure that young people are not left behind. By coming together and standing with young people, we can support their inclusion and participation.

“The major highlight for me is that we need to break away from business as usual. I feel like there has been too much documentation of paperwork and high-level statements, and not enough action,” he said. “For example, at the Africa Youth Climate Summits, most presidents gave high-level statements. We also have the Africa Youth Climate Declaration. But for me, what really matters is accountability. It’s time to walk the talk and take action. We’ve talked a lot, now it’s time to implement what we’ve said we will implement.”

Climate financing should be a shared responsibility, said Chacha.

“African countries should not just seek funds or loans from developed countries to implement climate change interventions. We should also take responsibility for budgeting for climate financing. Every country should contribute to climate financing. This will help to narrow the gap between developed and developing countries. To make climate financing more meaningful and inclusive, it should not be directed to the government. Instead, it should be channeled through the private sector. This will create jobs for young people and give them a platform to propose green interventions that can help combat climate change,” he said.

To build on what Chacha said, Mbumila agreed that we need to have honest and uncomfortable conversations about climate change solutions in Africa. He said that we can’t just copy and paste solutions from other parts of the world. We need to develop African-based solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of African communities.”

Mbumila also emphasized the importance of engaging with the communities that will be affected by these solutions. She said that we need to hear their voices and understand their priorities. We also need to make sure that the solutions are economically viable and sustainable.

“For example, we can’t just tell people in rural villages to start using electric cars. They need affordable and accessible solutions that will help them meet their basic needs. We need to find ways to make renewable energy more affordable and accessible. We also need to develop solutions that address the root causes of climate change, such as poverty and inequality,” he added.

Hopes for the Future of Climate Action in Africa

Mbumila expressed hope for the future of climate action in Africa. “It won’t be easy,” he said, “but I believe that the first African Youth Climate Assembly at the Africa Climate Summits is a very important step towards a greener and more sustainable future.”

He offered advice to his fellow youth climate champions: “Always hold the flag high and be at the forefront of these conversations. Don’t just go to summits, take pictures, and then go home. When you have the opportunity to represent the young people of your country or community, make the most of it and make sure they are involved in all the discussions and outcomes. You can do this through social media, which I have personally found to be a very important tool for communicating with young people. Let’s leverage the power of social media to make sure that these messages reach as many young people as possible.”

Chacha agreed: “From my perspective, I would say that Africa is not safe in the hands of our current politicians. They are the main hindrance to climate action initiatives in the continent.  For example, in Kenya, the government recently lifted the ban on cutting down trees. But the same government is also preaching about carbon markets. This is hypocritical, and it shows that the government is not serious about fighting climate change.

“On the other hand, I believe that Africa is safe in the hands of young people. We are the ones who will be most affected by climate change, so we have the most to lose. We are also the ones who are most likely to take action to address the problem. There is a saying that I like: “If you want to see the number one threat to climate injustice, look in the mirror.” That’s right, the biggest threat to climate change is ourselves. But we are also the ones who have the solutions.

“So young people, let’s take responsibility for our future. Let’s make sure that everything we do contributes to zero emissions. Let’s start by raising awareness in our communities. Let’s participate in cleanup campaigns and collect plastic waste. Let’s start small, but let’s start now,” he said.

“We can’t wait for our politicians to act. We need to take matters into our own hands. We need to show the world that young people are the ones who will lead the fight against climate change.”

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