A talented group of teenagers from all over the world gathered in one room, thinking how best to halt the devastating effects of climate change on Africa. The continent that contributes the least to global warming ironically bears the brunt of its consequences: Africa’s most economically and socially vulnerable people feel the full might of severe drought, food insecurity and rising temperatures. The continent’s serious predicament has ramifications for every nation and all of humankind. Essentially, the young people, aged 15-19 gathered in the room were tasked with saving us all.
Undaunted, the students, so vastly different from one another, came up with solutions. They said no more building of fossil fuel based plants. This would force countries to develop renewable energy technologies. They had a phased plan to have no oil-dependent countries by 2030; they presented international agreements that would preserve fragile ecosystems and to save the seas, they thought of sustainable fishing solutions. To reduce deforestation, they insisted that contour ploughing and terracing be used by farmers. And, to manage drought and famine, African countries with better food security levels could trade with others on the continent (exports would not be allowed to countries outside Africa). For longer-term sustainability, the youth suggested that primary schools adopt curricula focused on producing innovative solutions to climate change.
The teens came as part of the annual African Leadership Academy’s Model African Union (ALAMAU) leadership conference. The aim of the week is to simulate the activities of the African Union in a format inspired by the Model United Nations – the latter an experiential learning programme where students hone skills in diplomacy, negotiation, critical thinking, compromise, public speaking, writing and research. Youth delegates attending the ALAMAU apply their skills to study complex African issues, assuming the roles of committee members in several African Union organs and subsidiary bodies. These include the Peace and Security Council, The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the Pan-African Parliament, African Energy Commission and the African Commission on Human Rights.
In addition to the climate change resolution, the teens resolved ways to: fight extremism and terrorism in East and West Africa; provide outstanding, innovative education across the continent; establish stable governments in post-crisis states and; ensure gender equality in politics and governance. The resolutions were complex , but implementable. Read more about them here.
“What’s so important,” says Faith Abiodun, chief organiser of ALAMAU, “is that the youth lead the way in demonstrating solidarity, unity and collective decision-making.” When 310 teens of 48 different nationalities think deeply and compassionately about human rights, millennium development goals, the refugee crisis and green economies, there’s an ember of hope in a world where those at the top seemingly can’t transcend competing economic and political ideologies. “We can’t afford to have all this discord, and so we really promote unity,” adds Abiodun.
The African Leadership Academy created the ALAMAU because the concept aligns strongly with the institution’s founding beliefs, particularly the power of youth to improve the planet. It adorns the walls that “young people can dream big, take action and change the world.” Then, pan-Africanism is abided by: “collaboration will stimulate growth and development across the continent,” says Abiodun.
He acknowledges that the teenagers may not, in their lifetimes even, realise all their goals set out by them at the conference. “Things are pressing, but change is a process, not an event.” It will take very long to undo the protracted industrial era and centuries of human rights abuses based on skin colour and ethnicity. “It’s okay. We know that the work of this generation will count.”
ALAMAU 2017 will be bigger than ever, with more schools present from all over the world. Find out more here.