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Climate warriors: 13 young activists fighting for climate action in Africa
Updated: Nov 20, 2022
From toolkits to snacks, Africa's Gen Zs and Millennials are on the frontlines, creating awareness and inspiring action against climate change.
1. Kelo Uchendu: A voice for youths and children at “Africa’s COP”
Kelo Uchendu leads policy developments at YOUNGO, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) youth and children constituency.
Kelo Uchendu, the policy lead of YOUNGO, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) children and youth constituency. (Photo : Kelo Uchendu)
The 26-year-old witnessed the effect of acid rain along the oil-rich Niger Delta, which provoked him to seek a solution to the health hazard caused by acidic aerosols from gas and refinery operations in the region.
The young climate activist is responsible for ensuring the voices of children and youth are heard at COP 27 and is currently part of the team developing the Global Youth Statement to be presented at COP 27.
One of his legacy projects is the Climate Change Act 2021, which reflects the commitment held by the Nigerian government to achieve net zero emissions by 2060. Alongside Nigerian lawmaker Samuel Onuigbo whom he contacted, the Climate Section Bill was passed.
While acid rain continues to pose a health hazard to the residents of the Niger Delta, Uchendu believes a commitment to de-carbonisation of the energy sector will boost the country’s efforts
to attain its emission reduction targets.
2. Sheryl Mboya: The law student offering “snacks” to eliminate plastics from the ocean
22-year-old Sheryl Mboya seeks to reduce and potentially eliminate the use of single-use plastic tableware, which ends up in the lakes and oceans, threatening marine life.
Sheryll Mboya the innovator of 'snacksuit', edible utensils holding one of the edible utensils. (Photo Credits : GreenX Telemechanics Limited)
The law student has invented, Snackuit –edible cups, plates and spoons that will substitute single-use plastic tableware tossed into trash bins at eateries, hospitals, offices, and at get-together spots after use.
Due to waste management challenges, the plastics are channelled to large water bodies via rivers.
She founded Green X Telemechanics Limited with Snackuit as its first product that has now appealed to Kenya Airways with commitment from the airline to replace its in-flight tableware with Sheila’s product.
The non-chemical, toxic-free product is being tested for viability at the product quality level, market level and production cost management. However, her message about the opportunities offered by innovation and technology in environmental protection is clear.
3. Is Christine Wangari the next Wangari Maathai?
Christine Wangari, in collaboration with Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company and communities living along Sasumua Dam, on the shores of Sasumua River, a tributary of River Chania, is on a mission to increase tree cover.
Christine Wangari and colleagues during a tree planting session. (Photo Credits : Christine Wangari)
Human activities, especially farming practices, have significantly reduced water volumes in the Chania River. The drop in water volumes is already being felt at the household level as the water management service provider in the city is forced to ration the scarce resource.
Similar woes have been witnessed in the Ndakaini dam, another source of city water supply. Wangari’s efforts are already registering a positive trend as water levels steadily recover.
She runs the tree planting campaign through Multitouch, a nonprofit she founded in 2003, in the distribution of tree seedlings to the community and schools.
Her conservation efforts have been acknowledged internationally, but she remains loyal to her campaigns, the 40 Billion Trees and One Million Jobs Initiative.
4. Fatna Ikrame El Fanne: Driving climate action
Fatna Ikrame El Fanne is a young Moroccan climate action ambassador on a mission to spread climate awareness to fellow youth.
Fatna Ikarame posing for a picture. (Photo Credits : Fatna Ikarame)
The idea to incorporate fellow youths in her country in climate change awareness occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. Alongside her friends, they founded Youth for Climate Morocco, a nonprofit youth-led initiative.
She learnt about climate change from school, prompting her to realise an information gap, especially for the youths without a climate-related educational background.
With an environmentalist sister by her side, Fatna now leads the group in developing and circulating digital campaign messages and petitions on climate action, besides holding peaceful protests and marches. The group also plants trees besides visiting learning institutions for public education.
She bets on the youthful Moroccan population as having the potential to bolster climate action, especially in the quest to attain a transition to clean energy.
5. Rahmina Paulette: On a mission to save Africa’s largest freshwater lake
Rahmina Paulette is a 16-year-old climate activist and conservationist leading a campaign under the Kisumu Environmental Champions. It’s through this nonprofit that she’s conserving Lake Victoria.
Rahmina Paullete with fellow youth in a cleanup Exercise. (Photo Credits : Rahmina Paullete)
Rising water volumes in the lake and water hyacinth are some of the issues she has witnessed firsthand at the lake, prompting her to take action. Further, uncontrolled disposal of used napkins, pads, and plastic waste poses a health hazard to the lake dependents and aquatic life.
Her initiative has attracted over 100 youth, children as young as four-year-olds and some adults who participate in the cleanup activities and awareness campaign forums.
After collecting the plastics, Paulette and her group take them to a nearby recycling facility and sometimes convert some usable plastics into decorations.
The youth leader is also trying her hand at green entrepreneurship through Rahmina Paullete Eco products, a business that deals in cards, bags, books, mats, chairs, table coasters and hair bands made of hyacinth.
6. Ibrahim Muhammad Shamsuddin: The climate victim who became a climate champion
Ibrahim Muhammad Shamsuddin was ten years old when their neighbourhood was flooded, leaving them as refugees and leading to the death of some of his friends. He believes they would not have suffered these effects had they had prior information.
Muhammad Shansuddin giving a speech in one of the events. (Photo credits : Muhammad Shansuddin)
At 28, he is pursuing information access to rural populations besides leveraging his educational background to develop solutions for his community’s energy needs.
He leads the Break Free from Plastics Initiative and is also the regional coordinator for the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change. Alongside other youth, they have trained more than 7000 women on making briquettes from agricultural waste.
The youth climate leader believes with increased awareness especially utilising local media, a higher percentage of the rural population will be on-boarded into clean energy use, a subject of great interest to him.
7. Anas Seko has a toolkit for a cleaner world
Anas Seko is a Beninese youth climate ambassador determined to keep litter off the streets and beaches.
Anas Seko posing for a picture. (Photo Credits : Anas Seko)
The 27-year-old employs every modern method available to help him pass the message of environmental conservation and climate action.
He is also a photographer and a communications professional, a background that makes his message more appealing.
Seko also stages art shows and one-person performances, creates short movies and films, engages in advocacy and makes the best possible use of social networking opportunities.
His legacy project was a mission to save Ganvie, a lake city built on stilts and the country’s critical tourist attraction point. The lake was threatened by pollution, but with Seko’s intervention, a successful de-pollution campaign was carried out on the lake.
His new mission is “Mon Anniversaire Ma Patrie” (My Birthday, My Country). The initiative encourages individuals to volunteer for positive action during their birthdays.
8. Tafadzwa Kurotwi Malaika. The campus-based activist taking climate action to the streets
Tafadzwa Kurotwi Malaika is a Zimbabwe-based youth leader and music enthusiast.
Tafadzwa Kurotwi Malaika giving a speech in an event. (Photo Credits: Tafadzwa Kurotwi)
Born and raised in Mashingu, in a marginalised community dependent on subsistence farming, she watched her family and her community’s farm produce dwindle every season.
Her entry to campus exposed her to the internet, facilitating access to climate-change-related information.
Campus-level networking made her create a music concert group alongside a group of music lovers, singers and dancers. However, her interest in creating and increasing climate-related awareness has sent her to convert the music concert group to the vehicle they use to propagate climate action and environmental conservation awareness.
The group plants trees, cleans streets, and holds peaceful marches on campus and nearby Harare.
Malaika and her group are researching available options that they can use to convert plastics to recyclable products.
9. David Samikwa: Struggling to save a mountain forest
David Samikwa grew up in the Mulanje district in Malawi near Mt. Mulanje, witnessing how humans encroached on the mountain, especially for illegal tree cutting over the years for wood fuel.
David Samikwa and a colleague planting seedlings in Mulanje district in Malawi. (Photo Courtesy : David Samikwa)
Alarmed by the imminent threat to the mountain forest, Samikwa organised youths in the region to form a youth-led community initiative on a mission to reclaim the mountain forest.
Tikambe Youth Organization plants trees, trains youth and women in briquette-making and organises cleanup campaigns in the nearby town centres.
The group under Samikwa’s leadership boasts of planting more than 20000 tree saplings.
Samikwa believes energy solutions will boost efforts to save the mountain forest as energy needs are high in the country.
10. Menia Chaphamtengo: The sports enthusiast scoring goals for climate action
22-year-old Menia Chaphamtengo is a hockey and tennis player from Malawi. The university student is a sports ambassador tasked to encourage youth in the University of Malawi and those from across the district to cultivate a sports culture.
Menia Chaphamtengo watering tree seddlings. (Photo : Menia Chaphamtengo)
Chaphamtengo is passionate about climate change awareness and is devoted to seeing an increase in climate awareness, especially among the youth. She has decided to integrate her position as a sports ambassador with climate change awareness promotion.
She uses sporting events to speak to youths about the effects of climate change and their place in alleviating the impacts through adopting mitigation. She plans to lobby the government and leaders to support and facilitate tournaments with climate action-related clarion calls.
11. Beth Koigi: The social entrepreneur using Majik to create water out of thin air
Beth Koigi is a Kenyan water innovator passionate about providing decentralised water service, especially for populations in arid and semi-arid regions.
Beth Koigi making her presentation during Pitch @ Palace event. (Photo Courtesy : Beth Koigi)
A company she co-founded, Majik Water, already provides about 200000 litres of this vital resource through the installed technology devices.
The technology that has earned her global recognition and awards uses atmospheric water generators that transform air-borne moisture into clean drinking water.
However, this rare innovation has been part of her long-standing passion for water accessibility from her campus days.
She believes technology and innovation are the surest solutions to the water problem in Africa.
12. Anita Soina: The Spice Warrior and her Green War
22-year-old Anita Soina comes from the Maa communities of East Africa and has experienced firsthand drought growing up. She, however, doesn’t believe this should go on and has taken it upon herself to pursue climate actions that will ease the situation for her community through an organisation she founded, Spice Warriors.
Anita Soina during the launch of her book "The Green War". (Photo Credits : Anita Soina)
The use of complex terminologies when undertaking climate sensitisation is a gap she has identified, primarily affecting those with little environmental conservation information. She launched her book, “The Green War”, which is easy to understand.
The book complements her online awareness activities thanks to her massive online following.
Soina is also a political enthusiast and believes in public participation as a way of imparting knowledge.
Through planting trees, she has engaged with many people allowing her to explain her greening agenda.
Soina attempted her hand in politics in the recently concluded Kenyan election but lost. Her green party and her green agenda contributed immensely to increasing awareness of climate and environmental conservation.
13. ‘This is our challenge’: Ezekiel Nyanfor is stirring up Africa’s youth to climate activism
Ezekiel Nyanfor believes in youth education and the need to increase climate awareness, with his primary target group being climate ambassadors across Africa.
Ezekiel Nyafor posing for a picture. (Photo Credits : Ezekiel Nyafor)
He is inspired by the belief that young people can solve the climate change riddle by keeping policymakers and countries in check. He founded the Liberian Youth for Climate Actions to succeed in his mission.
He has used the organisation to network with young climate ambassadors in Liberia to develop, The Ambassadors’ Toolkit, a free online climate information resource that teaches youth about climate change.
The toolkit, among other features, outlines the origin of climate change and its effects on agriculture and food resources and assesses the different climate policies and agreements. It also tells stories of activists who have impacted their societies through activism.
The document is actively used in at least 5 African countries and the US to train young climate ambassadors.