African Youth Lead in the Run Up to Africa Climate Week and COP28

As President Biden has often said, we are now in the early years of what will be a decisive decade – especially on climate.  The choices that we make today, and the remainder of this decade will determine the fate of our forests and our oceans, of our weather, of our food supply.  Today’s youth will be most affected by these choices, so they must have a seat at the table.

The U.S. Mission to the African Union teamed up with the African Union and the U.K Embassy in Addis Ababa this week to gather more than 20 young people from across Africa for a post-COP27 meeting to discuss climate issues in the lead-up to COP28.  Young African Leaders Initiative Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni from Kenya, South Africa, and Malawi led the program.  Participants shared experiences and climate-action ideas for their respective regions as well as exploring ways to strengthen their participation in policy formulation and decision-making processes.

Climate-action African youth gathering at the AU headquarters

The teams of forward-thinking participants focused on climate and security, climate finance, green recovery, adaptation, and food security as they jointly developed recommendations to be submitted to the African Union.  With their eyes toward the Nairobi Climate Action Summit, Africa Climate Week, and COP28 in Dubai this fall, all were thankful for the opportunity to find a Pan-African, youth-led common agenda.

“Our goal for today’s session is to stress to the African Union along with its partners to provide a platform to share African youth, their experiences and ideas, as we come from different regions of the continent.   We came from East Africa, North Africa, and Southern Africa and we need to come up with very specific and strong recommendations as African youth towards the climate policy formulation,” said Yared Abera, a young climate activist from Ethiopia.

Youth participants engaged in a discussion on climate issues at the African Union

The AU’s Representative for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment Sam Ogallah pledged to support the youth in their efforts to combat climate change.  “The youth are critical stakeholders in the African Union Climate Change  and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan,” he said.

“Because of the critical role the youth play in our strategy, they have to have a place at our table when it comes to implementation.  On behalf of the Directorate and our partners, I want to assure that we are going to engage you, we are going to support you, and make sure that every initiative that came from this event going forward will have our full endorsement and our support,” Representative Ogallah added.

Participants finalizing their presentation at the conclusion of the day

Later, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Mission to the African Union Mika Cleverley welcomed the creative thinking and ambitions of the participants:  “There is no topic more important to address than climate.  If we don’t act now, we can’t meet the goals we have set for ourselves.”

Chargé Cleverley added, “There is no better group to work on this than you.  The youth need a voice, and you need to be that voice.  We are glad to partner with you.  The future is yours, and we want to enable you to succeed.  We want to be valuable partners with you in that process. ”

Chargé d’Affaires to the U.S. Mission to the African Union Mika Cleverley encouraging participants to raise their voices

By boldly tackling the climate crisis today, we can turn this existential challenge into an opportunity for generations to come.  COP27 Youth Envoy Omnia El Omrani of Egypt added her essential voice to the deliberations via a video message.  Mandela Washington Fellow alumni Saraha Nyawira (Kenya), Gloria Cuthbert (Malawi), Siyabulela Lawrence Sokomani (South Africa), and Muhammad Salisu Abdulahi (Nigeria) all shared how they are climate change-makers in their respective countries, while being ambassadors to find a common position alongside the AU.

COP27 in November 2022 provided an opportunity to focus on the priorities and needs of the African continent.  The United States worked to meet this call through our engagement of African interlocutors and President Biden’s announcement of $150 million in new funding to address adaptation in Africa as part of the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE), which aims to improve climate resilience for 500 million people in vulnerable developing countries, including in Africa, by 2030.  We will continue to pursue climate goals and commitments that complement the continent’s national and regional strategies to combat climate change, including the African Union’s Agenda 2063 priorities for climate-resilient economies and communities, and the African Union’s Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy.