CEO Kenya Climate Innovation Centre Awards the Top Winner of the WeSustain Africa Easy Competition, Jeremy Njonge

Photo: CEO Kenya Climate Innovation Centre Awards the Top Winner of the WeSustain Africa Easy Competition, Jeremy Njonge.

This is the #1 winning essay 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?


By: Jeremy Njonge 

Looking at Africa through my youthful eyes, I see a land of many opportunities. I see so much potential. Africa is a hotbed of culture, a great people, cradle of mankind and has vast raw materials. However, there is also so much that is wrong. Political instability, corruption, unemployment, poverty and so many other vices. As an African youth I have the power in my hands to mold what I want Africa to be in ten, fifteen years from now. Beaming of youth and splendor, I believe the youth of Africa are the catalysts to a positive change and impact in Africa.

First and foremost, the biggest tragedy from my viewpoint is commodity export. For example, in my country Kenya, it saddens me that we have to export raw coffee then import processed coffee that is way more expensive. Africa needs to stop exporting raw materials and start exporting finished goods. Export chocolate not cocoa pods, export clothes not cotton. I believe there is a solution to this.

We need to build industries. Will it be expensive? Yes, very expensive to say the least. There is such a thing as good debt and bad debt. Bad debt is where value on investment will decrease. Good debt is where value on investment will increase. We should be risk takers. Africa should not be afraid to take risks and get into debt. To build industries we will have to get into debt. On the bright side, even developed countries had to get into trillions of debt to get to where they are now. 

There is also the very important factor, food security. With rapid increase in climate change making it very difficult to predict weather patterns. Also a very sharp increase in rural-urban migration. Many youths are moving from the rural areas to the urban areas. This may be attributed to the fact that agricultural practices in the rural areas are traditional and bring lo income. I believe agribusiness is the answer to make the youth go back and develop the rural areas. Use of greenhouse technology and renewable sources of energy such as solar power and bio-gas can make agribusiness a success.

People move forward due to connections. Africa will move forward if the people of the many nations of Africa are connected. One may ask, how do you make nations connected? The answer is simply good infrastructure. People and goods need to move from place to place. Get produce closer to the markets in the shortest time possible. Build dual carriage ways. New gauge railways as is happening in eastern Africa. Expand our airports to accommodate more cargo, people and larger planes. Expand the ports. Make the oceans and the inland open.

The success of a nation is dependent on a working economy. This is only possible if the people of the nation are healthy. The first step is to ensure low maternal and child mortality. Free maternal health care has proven to be success in my country, Kenya. Immunization of preventable diseases such as polio by educating the masses. Encourage people to exercise frequently to prevent lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. In my opinion, a universal health care system might work in Africa. This is where the well off in the society pay for the health care of the less privileged. 

Technology is what has made the 21st century different from the 20th century. We need, as Africans to embrace technology. I am a data scientist and I know the power of data. Data can help change so much in Africa. Data is the gateway to information. There is data recorded everyday, from weather, sales and so many other aspects of our daily lives. We should be able to manipulate the data to make predictions and regress on future possibilities.

There has been a heated debate in my country, Kenya, on the education system. From my point of view a change in the education system is vital and long overdue. The current education system is flawed to great proportions. It encourages competition instead of co-operation. It is always a matter of first and last. It also encourages employment instead of entrepreneurship. This in my opinion is the biggest flaw. We are encouraged and repeatedly reminded to finish school and get a job. We need entrepreneurship to be instilled from the very early stages of life. This is possible with a change in the education system.

In conclusion, our trade blocks need to sit down, have a rethink and re-evaluate our trade blocks goals and objectives. From the AU to the EAC, IGAD and SADC they are all using goals and objectives as old as the hills. In my country Kenya, we got a new constitution. It is a working progress and I have a firm belief that the trade blocks also need to make new aims and objectives. Change is as good as new and maybe that is what Africa needs.