Young people aged 15-24 years constitute 16 percent (about 1.2 billion) of the world’s population.1“World Youth Report: Youth Social Entrepreneurship and the 2030 Agenda,” United Nations, p. 148 (2020). Africa has the youngest population in the world, with about 70 percent of Sub-Africa’s population being under 30 years old. The global youth population aged 15-35 years is anticipated to surpass 1 billion by 2063, translating to possible escalated production and consumption patterns and related consequences to meet the needs of the ballooning youthful population. Similarly, the impact of climate change is and will continue to be felt by this youthful population. Youth in the continent have experienced a lot of the negative impacts of the climate crisis. These include: losing their main livelihood streams like livestock to prolonged droughts; loss of crops to severe storms, floods, and droughts; and, in worst cases, loss of lives as a result of these natural disasters and climate change-related conflicts. Therefore, African youth have a lot at stake and are indispensable to ongoing international efforts aimed toward the mitigation of the severity of climate change through interventions, adaptation, and climate-related peacebuilding worldwide. In this regard, youth should engage in global partnerships that promote the quest for a carbon-free, prosperous, and sustainable present and future. Youth partnerships for mitigating the climate crisis within the framework of US-African cooperation will go a long way in building a strong and prosperous Africa and USA.

As change agents, youth could leverage their power of curiosity, creativity, and emerging digital technologies to dive into global trends in matters related to climate change. Youth organizations can work toward building transnational partnerships and coalitions around themes and experience-sharing initiatives that advance climate crisis mitigation. This includes, but is not limited to, the implementation of the Paris Agreement through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) toward climate action. For instance, through NDCs, Kenya seeks to increase the generation of renewable energy such as geothermal, achieve a tree coverage of at least 10 percent of the land area in the country; and scale up Nature-Based-Solutions for mitigation, among others. Thus, it becomes important for the youth to understand, own such processes, hold states and relevant actors accountable, share experiences, and shape actions and policies that can contribute solutions that reverse the negative impacts of climate change.

As a powerful force, youth have the potential to mobilize critical mass and resources toward important initiatives such as environmental clean-ups whose impacts transcend their immediate environments for the global good. Through established networks such as the Let’s Do It World network (LDIW), youth could collaborate with other actors including businesses at the grassroots levels and sensitize them on sustainable practices in solid waste management, for instance. Through its first-ever World Cleanup Day in 2018, the Green Africa Youth Organization’s LDIW mobilized 18 million people from about 160 countries globally to collect waste and share best practices. This was followed by more success stories in subsequent years, which saw the participation of people from nearly all countries in the world. As a result, the LDIW network has been acknowledged for its effort to create a zero-waste world. Let’s Do it Turkey, for instance, was awarded the Zero Waste NGO Award 2022 for championing World Cleanup Day in Turkey, while Let’s Do It Ukraine, an all-Ukrainian youth movement, received an Honorable Mention, the UN SDG Action Award for the implementation of the movement’s international humanitarian project dubbed, “Let’s do it Ukraine SOS.”

Youth-appealing sporting activities like football provide a vital social platform, which is a strategic tool for drawing youth closer to global climate initiatives and influencing a shift in knowledge, attitudes, and practices within the communities. In collaboration with the youth sports tournaments such as the “Mazingira,” in Kenya, the Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) convened about sixty football clubs in central Kenya, creating a platform to sensitize the community on climate change mitigation and adaptation practices. PACJA provided thousands of climate-resistant plants such as bamboo and sunflower, among others, to the local community. The Global Youth Forum in Kenya also exemplifies a potent platform for drawing youth closer to conservative activities through football, having reached about 500 youths in 2022. The Youth Social Sport Organization in Tanzania has been on the frontline of using sports and football tournaments to empower, raise awareness, and build capacity and behavioral change among youth toward climate actions in marginalized communities. Peace race initiatives such as the Tegla Loroupe Peace race initiatives in East African pastoralist conflict areas, which has seen thousands of athletes including youth participate in the annual peace race, could provide an avenue for the youth to localize climate change debates and advocate for mitigation and adaption initiatives at the grassroots levels.

Agriculture is the backbone of most African nations, yet it is threatened by prolonged droughts, severe storms, floods, increased pest infestations, and conflicts. Whereas sixty percent of the population in Africa is below 24 years old, the average age of traditional farmers in the continent is 60, demonstrating low participation of youth in agriculture.2“Contribution to the 2014 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Integration Segment.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2014, Most youths are tech savvy which could be tapped to transform the agricultural sector not only to attract young people but to enhance crop production and resilience as strategies of adaptation or responses to climate change. With financial support and capacity building, youth could help digitize the agricultural value chain including using smart technology for the detection of crop diseases caused by climate change in time and management of losses at farm levels through precision agriculture, among others.

Youth have a significant capacity to advocate for pro-climate change mitigation policies through different forums, besides participating in important decision-making processes like elections. The youthful population in Africa gives youth the power to decide who ascends to leadership positions if they exercise their democratic rights of voting. Youth could use such spaces to vote for pro-environmental conservation leaders who will prioritize and implement policies for addressing the climate crisis and related effects while ensuring a balance between the three pillars of sustainable development.

The Young Africans Leaders Initiative (YALI), under the US-Africa framework for cooperation, sets a precedent for empowering youth to generate an educated and healthy workforce the world needs for advancing important agendas, including some outcomes of COP27 that seek to address the climate emergency. Tapping from its over 500,000 members drawn from each of the Sub-Saharan countries, YALI provides an important social capital that could leverage the youth pavilion created at COP27 for instance, and create awareness and sensitization about the climate crisis and mitigation measures among the youths and stakeholders at the grassroots level to promote collective actions. Exchange programs through YALI networks and Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network, Kenya, for instance, could promote knowledge, and solutions transfer between Africa and the US among the youth to accelerate the uptake of initiatives such as climate-smart agriculture and clean energy technologies. Other opportunities such as trainings and internships will help to bring on board more youth, including those from marginalized communities and regions in the co-development of solutions, tolerability, and support towards developing germane policy decisions across the globe.

Leveraging a digital generation of youth who are also devoted users of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, young people in Africa and the USA could spotlight in real time climate-related disasters wreaking havoc worldwide for wider attention and actions. Convening through different forums, the youth from the Global South and North could share their lived experiences from their worlds. These could include incidents such as recent floods in Nigeria that devastated the majority of its states, leaving hundreds dead, millions displaced, with hundreds of hectares of farmland damaged. The raging floods in South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal province), Cyclone Idai cases in Mozambique, and severe droughts and floods in the greater Horn of Africa.3“Mozambique: Tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth—Emergency Appeal n° MDRMZ014, Final Report,” International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, pg. 65 (2022). The youth could also highlight actions taken to address such climate-related disasters that would elicit debates on their shortcomings and gaps, and actions to avert similar scenarios, and advocate for changes in relevant policies.

The high rates of unemployment among the youth could inhibit their active engagement in the mitigation of the climate crisis and instead promote anti-environmental conservation activities such as illegal logging to meet their needs. Youth today are more educated than their parents are and could be empowered to conduct climate change research and help to implement climate change policies. Furthermore, with global investments and policies accelerating the green economy and mitigation of the climate crisis, the involvement of more youth would help provide the much-needed workforce. Youth could also volunteer in sensitization, advocacy, and action-oriented initiatives, including the translation and dissemination of climate-related information into local languages for communities’ use to navigate impending climate shocks, enhancing mitigation solutions and building resilient communities.

Conclusion and recommendations

Climate change is increasingly escalating uncertainties surrounding the world’s future. Its impacts are not only hitting developing nations harder but also threatening to reverse gains made in developed countries, the USA included. Youth have a lot at stake, and as the urgency to address the climate predicament increases each day, collaborating with more youth within the US-Africa cooperation framework is needed to realize the quest for a carbon-neutral, safer, prosperous, and sustainable world. While the partnership is already exemplifying significant potential toward climate emergency mitigation and development, there is room to include more young people in conversation around decision-making tables, including climate change advisory councils. Furthermore, remote-tailored training, internships, and exchange programs will help to empower more youth with relevant skills to accelerate climate actions across the globe. There is a need for more deliberate efforts to target youth through sports, art, music, and conferences to enable them to coalesce around and champion solutions to the climate crisis. Policy interventions facilitating the financing of more youth-sensitive projects, and or youth-inclusive climate projects, to create markets for youth-driven services would also be fruitful. Concerted efforts should be directed toward advancing a US-Africa cooperation framework that prioritizes youth participation in advocacy and decision-making in relation to national, regional, and global actions aimed toward climate adaptation and resilience, social justice, sustainability, and equity.

  • 1
    “World Youth Report: Youth Social Entrepreneurship and the 2030 Agenda,” United Nations, p. 148 (2020).
  • 2
    “Contribution to the 2014 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Integration Segment.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2014,
  • 3
    “Mozambique: Tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth—Emergency Appeal n° MDRMZ014, Final Report,” International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, pg. 65 (2022).