wesustain essay kenya sdgs sustainability africa youth

Photo: Former Danish Ambassador to Kenya awards a finalist of the WESustain Essay Competition, Habel Mwashigadi.   

This is one of the winning essays from our WESustain Essay Competition 2018. The prompt was:

How can the youth harness the opportunities in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a means of tackling the current social, economic and environmental challenges in Africa by 2030?

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Fulfilling the SDGs through the power of the youth 

The Global Goals for sustainable development were defined in 2015 by world leaders in order to achieve a better world by 2030. A better world is quite subjective. However, on evaluating the basic needs, a better world is realized by the strive to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. The goals are designed as a guiding tool to assist governments, businesses, civil societies and the general public to join hands in realising the better world. 


The current status is that the year 2030 is 12 strides of 365 meters away from becoming the present. This clearly indicates that time is not a luxurious factor in the implementation of the Sustainable Development goals. Africa as a continent, acts as host to many developing nations such as Kenya. Despite achieving a middle-class status, a country like Kenya still has a long way to go in terms of realizing the specific targets with regards to the SDGs. Such targets include elimination of forced marriages and genital mutilation under the SDG number 5; Gender Equality. 


According to the Business Daily, the Kenyan Youth population stands at 20.3% against the world’s average of 15.8% and Africa’s of 19.2%. Nations like Ethiopia also boost of such huge ratios of 21.8% as of 2017. This shows that the Youth have a huge bargaining force with regards to agenda implementation in their countries. Despite beauracratic tendencies in the governing systems, the youth could still achieve a huge share of positive change even in their private capacity. 


SDGs such as No Poverty advocate for building of resilience to environmental, economic and social disasters under its targets. This offers an avenue for any interested youth to establish local based awareness programs for the communities with the help of the county governments. Communities that are informed on the practises to undertake in the case of emergencies tend to incorporate the measures even in their own innovative ways in order to suit their way of living. In northern Kenya, a majority of the population are pastoralists and they tend to incur huge losses whenever the weather becomes severe or cattle rustling becomes rampant. When such communities are made aware of other possible methods of generating income and sustaining themselves taking into consideration their geographical limitations, then the goal of No Poverty could be realized with time. 


The aforementioned goal also advocates for creation of pro poor and gender sensitive policy frameworks. This calls for the youth to join the various committees provided by the governing bodies in the counties or at the National scale in order to voice their concerns with regards to the subject of discussion. If such spaces are not available, the youth can very much so draft policies through bodies like student councils and youth development agencies and submit the policies to parliament for consideration through public participation entries. The youths are able to define the matters that concern them most and communicate such in order to avoid having outdated policies being implemented with little or no effect. 


In a bid to realize the goal of Zero hunger, specific targets such as doubling the productivity and incomes of small scale food producers and maintain the genetic diversity in food production offers an incentive to the youth to venture into agribusiness. Agricultural produce serves as the main source of income for most African countries. 


Despite this, major parts of Africa have recorded high death rates due to lack of proper food security. The youth have always regarded farming as a second or third choice when considering various sources of income. This is due to the fact that the culture has always been such that the ‘poor’ people are left back in the villages farming as other head for the urban areas in search of white collar jobs. At the moment the youth have a huge opportunity to secure Youth Development funds and venture into commercial food production and also accelerating research and development with regards to food production with the assistance of International bodies such as World Health Organization. This could go a long way in ending all forms of malnutrition and ensuring universal access to safe and nutritious food.


In addition to that, with the endless access to information, the youth are very much equipped to drive the efforts in realizing the SDG number 4 of Quality Education. As volunteers to local schools at the primary and secondary level, the youth can assist in offering quality primary and secondary education. This will help in increasing universal literacy and numeracy. Innovating ways to also incorporate technology in early stages learning would also help in reducing the gap between education curriculum and market relevancy for the students. Through tech start-ups and incubators, the youth can be able to invent various models that can be leased or sold to learning institutions in order to increase efficiency and effectiveness in the learning. 


These examples go a long way to indicate the different ways in which the youths, who are the majority of the population, can indeed inject their contribution into solving the various economic and social issues that are currently facing Africa by 2030. The goal is not necessarily to rush towards ticking off the goals from our to-do list. The purpose should be to create sustainable systems that are able to outlive our existence and remain relevant in generations to come.