When you hear the term Africa's Youth, you're hearing the majority of the Continent's demographic being described. That's because the median age is only 19 years. This makes what's happening both exciting and fragile.
Last month we learned that Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder, had pledged two billion dollars for land restoration projects across the Continent to be paid as part of his Bezos Earth Fund.
"We must conserve what we still have, we must restore what we've lost, and we must grow what we need to live without degrading the planet for future generations to come. Two-thirds of the land in Africa is degraded, but this can be reversed. Restoration can improve soil fertility, raise yields and improve food security, make water more reliable, create jobs and boost economic growth, while also sequestering carbon," said Bezos in a statement at a 2021 Cop26 event.
Looking along five of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: people, prosperity, planet, peace, and partnership, we find that Africa is struggling to keep pace with the 2030 goals set in 2015 to protect the earth, and humanity, for the future generations, like African Youth.
Like Bezos, Gates, and many of the world's most powerful, they choose not to stop and focus on the negative but work through the challenges while building positives.
One example of this can be seen in Africa's Great Green Wall project. The project centers around restoring land across the African Sahel, which has been the most devastated by climate change.
The Great Green Wall was announced at a UN Sustainable Development Conference in 2007 with the vision of building an 8,000-km wall of trees from Senegal in West Africa to Djibouti on the eastern edge of the Continent. This initiative aims to halt desertification and plant enough trees to remove two percent of the world's annual carbon emissions.
The Africa Great Green Wall Initiative was established in 2011 with 4 billion dollars funding from African governments, the United Nations, the World Bank, and other international donors like African philanthropists such as Aliou Baboucar Diallo.
It aimed to restore one million hectares of land across some 15 countries by 2020, but as we have seen, unpredictability, like the global pandemic has slowed the progress. And this is where the African Youth comes in.
We know it works.
In the village of Banjul in the Gambia, which is located on the banks of the Gambia River, was a thriving fishing community. But the river has slowly been drying up due to climate change and with it, the fish stocks that sustained the village disappeared.
In 2016, members of the village teamed up with Green Wall Gambia, a local NGO, to plant trees as part of the Great Green Wall project. The trees have helped to stabilize the soil, reduce erosion, and improve water retention. This has led to an increase in fish populations in the river, which has, in turn, led to an increase in income for the village.
The Gambian case is just one of the many examples of how community-based planning can help to increase conservation efforts while also combating poverty. What's good about these projects is that they are led by youth.
They are the leaders of tomorrow and will take on these initiatives to ensure Africa's prosperity for all. And if they are wondering where to jump in or looking for a launch point. There is one coming up.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa supports these initiatives with a platform called African Youth in A Decade of Action: Actors or Bystanders, it is an online event happening Monday, December 20th, to engage leaders, mobilize youth, brainstorm ideas, and support Africans leading towards achieving these Sustainable Development Goals.