wesustain essay africa sdgs sustainability youth

Photo: Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at KCB Group awards a finalist of the WESustain Essay Competition, Veronica Otieno.  

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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Youth Inclusion to Lift Africa Up 

“We do not turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up” said Barack Obama. This is not far from the 2030 World agenda whose clear mission is to leave no one behind; not the children, the women, the youth or the disabled. The goal is to ensure that every individual progresses as a result of the positive impact expected from the Sustainable development goals. According to the World Bank report issued in 2017, 42 percent of the world’s population constitutes young people under the age of 25 whilst according to the UNDP, Africa has the youngest population in the world with a highly increasing growth rate. It is estimated by 2055, the continent’s youth population (aged 15-24), is expected to be more than double the 2015 total of 226 million. The Youth can therefore not be ignored in this important process of sustainable development, in fact engaging them from the onset is the best way to ensure long term sustainability.


The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a wide range of opportunities for the youth in Africa, giving them a platform tackle most, if not all of the challenges affecting Africa as a region. Some of the greatest challenges that Africa as a continent faces include; Poor governance, corruption, unemployment, drought, famine, poor education, low economic growth, inequalities and insecurity. The SDGs provide clear direction, which if aimed at will challenge us to find sustainable solutions to the aforementioned problems.


Amongst the social challenges Africa experiences include high levels of poverty, high illiteracy levels, inadequate health care, gender based violence, negative ethnicity and incidences of terrorism and extremism. None of the effects of the stated challenges can be termed as subtle, they all have grievous consequences frequently resulting in the loss of the greatest asset given to man by God and that is life. The first 5 SDGs directly addresses these challenges by aiming at eradicating poverty and hunger, ensuring good health and wellbeing, quality education and gender equality. From this, African Youth can identify some of the opportunities arising from the SDGs tackling the issue and harness them. For example to eradicate hunger, the youth can focus on sustainable food production by ensuring an effective process of production, distribution and consumption of agricultural produce. This major sector if well taken care of can result in increased employment, accessible and affordable food, increased revenue for the country in cases of exports etc. The youth can take advantage of technology to learn how other successful continents are succeeding at this, they can also develop applications to ease distribution of agricultural produce both internally and externally, in the case of machinery they can look for funding from supporting organizations.


To end gender based violence, the African youth both male and female should take up leadership opportunities without holding back. In Africa leadership and governance roles are dominated by men, the youth should change this narrative. Both men and women should encourage both genders to actively participate in building the continent. Women’s input is equally as useful as men’s and this will mean increased capacity, therefore resulting in the growth of the economy.


The African Youth can use technology; internet and social media to spread messages of truth, peace and harmony. This is a way to reduce the inequalities and stereotypes that result in negative consequences such as war, choosing wrong leaders because of ethnicity or even death due to extremisms. Another great tool that can be used to curb most of the social issues is a good education system that incorporates relevant issues affecting the continent, this will give students an opportunity not only to learn but to also brainstorm and come up with solutions to the problems.


The low economic growth rate and high population growth in Africa do not match. This poses a great challenge to the economy and makes it susceptible to poverty, unemployment and insecurity. The SDGs aim at creating decent work and economic growth whilst encouraging industry, innovation and infrastructure. The Youth should therefore not shy away from starting their own enterprises or developing innovative solutions that will progress the economy. In this era of technology and information, the youth have access to the world at their fingertips, they can leverage on this to learn from the different world economies and replicate or even create their own advancements for the betterment of the continent. Students in Universities should be encouraged to submit their ideas which should be assessed and if found feasible, they should be properly nurtured until they produce results.


Africa suffers some serious environmental problems including climate change, water and pollution, deforestation etc The Youth can join in ending the war against environment by actively participating in tree planting, actively creating awareness on the dangers of ignoring the environment, holding the government accountable and saying no to improper practices. They should also actively participating in taking care of the animals on land and below land by initiating campaigns and encouraging all age groups to join in with the aim of creating awareness.


In conclusion, there is no sustainable development without the youth. We should find more ways to not only create awareness on the SDGs amongst the Youth but also to practically engage the Youth in the actualization process to ensure that the developmental goal is not only met but sustained over the years.