Photo: CEO Kenya Climate Innovation Centre Awards a finalist of the WeSustain Africa Easy Competition, Aukot Simon

Photo: CEO Kenya Climate Innovation Centre Awards a finalist of the WeSustain Africa Easy Competition, Aukot Simon.

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?

Targeting the Youth for a Prosperous Africa 

Africa is an increasingly important player in the global arena in terms of global growth and its enormous youth population continues to grow exponentially. This burgeoning population needs a voice and space in shaping its future and the future of Africa to ensure that it is promising. The youths are an important element in a society because they guarantee the future of any society. We have heard for decades that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow but that tomorrow does not seem to come if the youths would not use the opportunities within the Sustainable Development Goals to exterminate the current social, economic and environmental problems that hamper Africa from development.


Crucial to the realization of the Agenda 2030 in Africa, is the available opportunity of education which every youth must take into consideration. More disheartening, is the challenge of illiteracy which has escalated alarmingly among the African youths. The global illiteracy statistics indicates that 75,000,000 people cannot read. This is heartbreaking. The effects of illiteracy often impact a nation’s ability to develop its human resource. Countries with high illiteracy rate are more likely to be disadvantaged in the global economy. Alongside this, illiteracy deprives one a chance to access basic information that is distributed via books, newspapers or the internet resulting to lack of creative personnel and critical thinkers. 


It is fundamental for the youth to understand that they are inherently part of the solution to high levels of illiteracy in Africa. African youth can grab the opportunity of enrolling into scholarship programs that have been availed by the government and non-governmental organizations. Equity Group Foundation and MasterCard Foundation have been in the forefront in supporting the education of many African youths to cut downn the cost of learning through scholarship programs. These organizations have made vocational training accessible to youths. This vocational training aids youth discover their worth which helps them attain the effective self-efficacy that in turn results in mastering of their expertise. The introduction of free primary education in some African countries like Kenya has been helpful because the youth gladly took the opportunity to learn. Therefore, the sustainable development goal of quality educations calls for every youth in Africa to see education as a solution to their problems.


Social economic development of Africa will remain a perpetual nightmare if the thorny underlying problem of unemployment among the youth is not addressed vehemently with zeal and commitment to solving it. Many youths graduate from universities hoping to be employed but end up without job opportunities. The Africa’s youth unemployment rate currently stands at 67% and of Africa’s unemployed, 60% are young people. Youth unemployed rates double those of adults in Africa. 


Although statistics speak for themselves, this problem can be curbed if the African youths take the lead through the solutions such as being a jua kali industry artisan to create self-employment, taking advantage of the government initiatives that are aimed at ending unemployment like the kazi kwa vijana and The Ajira initiatives that Kenyan government came up with. Besides that, an African youth with an entrepreneurial mind can seek financial assistance from non-governmental organization like ONGOZA that identifies potential youth and youth groups, trains them on entrepreneurship and help them start business to generate income for themselves. All of the above solutions point to the sustainable development goal of decent work and economic growth.


Social development of Africa can be affected by the issue of global food supply and nutritional insecurity which has become a pinching concern. No child will go to school when their family cannot provide food for them or their siblings. Likewise, no youth will be willing to work with an empty stomach. Africa has a vast unused land which the youth should see as the opportunity to grow food. Similarly, the youth can take low-cost loans from the financial institutions to invest in their self-help agricultural projects in order to access and avail nutritionally rich and healthy food. With that accomplished by the youths, Africa will have zero hunger.


Without proper youth health care and wellbeing, Africa is likely to lag behind in development. . Apart from the traditional health problems like malaria, tuberculosis and more conservative sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS has become a major concern. Mental health is increasingly becoming a common problem among the youth. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, psychosis and substance abuse are also becoming leading mental problems among the youth. Reproductive health is an impactful area which the youths need to be enlightened about. With the knowledge of reproductive health, teenage pregnancies and abortions can be brought under control. There is need for the youth to take advantage of the facilities that offer preventive and curative health services. The health of the African youth is the Africa’s wealth. 


Does Africa need to keep breathing? Obviously yes. The youths of Africa in the boards of environmental agencies and organizations should be part of the environmental policy formulations and implementations in order to make decisions that are environmentally friendly that contributes towards environmental conservation, protection and preservation through proper solid waste management systems, afforestation and reforestation practices and agroforestry practices that ensures sustainable production of trees and restoration of African water catchment areas . If the opportunities in the environmental sector can be harnessed by the youths in Africa, a heritage of cleaner, greener and peaceful environment for both fauna and flora will be left behind. This will allow for lives both below the waters and above the land to continue thriving as well as reducing the fatal risks of environmental hazards.


The youths are very crucial in closing the gaps that exist in social economic and environmental growths. Youths have immense greatness within them which need to be unearthed through helping them tap into the opportunities available in the sustainable development goals. They are the precious jewels that if polished through those opportunities will paint Africa the brightest continent and place it at the peak of success that no other continent has ever been to.