wesustain essay kenya sdgs sustainability africa youth

Photo: Corporate Services Director of Kenya Climate Innovation Center awards a finalist of the WESustain Essay Competition, Mellany Metah.   

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?


Small Actions, Big Difference

A goal is a dream with a deadline.

On June 25th 2018, I set a personal goal; to develop a digital space for youth to interact virtually across borders with global changemakers, aiming at campaigning for the inclusion, development and empowerment of youth in shaping the world we want. I have named it SustainIT, a platform where youth can contribute in ending extreme poverty, reduce inequality, tackle climate change and adopt simple routines in their daily lives, to make a big difference. Moreover, SustainIT has a feature that channels the opportunities in the Sustainable Development Goals into an interactive game, hence creating awareness on issues of major concern and enabling the users to adopt a seedling from the comfort of their home, in order to combat deforestation in Kenya.

My sole purpose for developing SustainIT and mobile applications that aim at solving local and global challenges, boils down to my passion for utilizing technology and innovation effectively to identify barriers and provide solutions for sustainable development challenges from the local to global level.

Today’s generation of youth is the largest the world has ever known. Can you imagine that one in every three people alive today, is under the age of thirty and around ninety percent of young people are living in developing countries, mainly in Africa? Young people, being the torch bearers of the 2030 agenda, have been at the fore of developing technological tools and media solutions which enhance collaboration and innovation through online engagement, as well as concrete social and humanitarian responses for the most pressing challenges in Africa.

Being a young person, I firmly believe that we are more informed, more tech savvy and more connected than any other generation before. Therefore, we need to leverage this so as to solve current development challenges in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. I often wonder what kind of future can we, as young people, look forward to? This is where the Sustainable Development Goals come in. The global goals are world changing objectives which define priorities for people and the planet. When I heard about the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015, I became passionate and enthusiastic about collaborating with young changemakers to champion the goals and make an impact through technology, since youth are the future. We have a deadline to end extreme poverty, fix climate change and ensure peace and prosperity for all. 

At the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals are three pillars of development: economic, social and environmental. So, how can we, young people, leverage the opportunities in the Sustainable Development Goals in order to solve the current social, economic and environmental challenges in Africa, before we run out of time?

Being the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization youth mobile initiative champion, I strongly believe that young people play a lead role in the development and use of emerging technology. Young people are the trailblazers in the creation of technological solutions to some of Africa’s most pressing social, economic and environmental challenges. I have interacted with global players involved in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, hence I believe that young change makers are creative, technologically adept and informed of the local community needs. 

The global goals are linked to science, technology and innovation. Can you imagine the endless possibilities of the outcome in empowering and informing the youth on emerging technology such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big data, Internet of Things and Blockchain technology? I have imagined infinite possibilities of fellow youth and young change makers being empowered with skills and knowledge to properly utilize technology in creating a better policy and trade process, develop systems to reduce inequality and fight gender-based violence, ensure peace and prosperity for all, combat deforestation, fix climate change and fight corruption in Africa. 

Therefore, this will give us a better chance of solving social, economic and environmental challenges, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, before we run out of time.

Being a violinist at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music Symphony orchestra, I go by one mantra: “One person cannot whistle the symphony, it needs to be played by everyone in the orchestra, in order to achieve stellar rhythm”. In a similar case, I believe in collaborating with fellow youth to think globally and act locally in order to make Africa sustainable through small actions that make a big difference.