Africa is warming faster than the rest of world, the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently revealed. The continent is in a precarious position, vulnerable to the numerous impacts of climate change. Climate action is an urgent matter with serious implications for development prospects across Africa.
The United Nations Environment Programme also recently warned of increased flooding, widespread food insecurity and major economic losses. The effects of the climate crisis are already being witnessed and felt by many people in Africa. While the climate crisis unfolds, it is disconcerting that awareness and literacy on climate change in Africa remains low. The largest-ever survey of Africans’ perceptions of climate change conducted by Afrobarometer in 2019 revealed that “climate change literacy” among average citizens is limited and four in 10 Africans have never heard of the term climate change. Afrobarometer recommended that African governments, policymakers and climate justice activists should create more awareness among all citizens to raise knowledge on climate change and raise climate action literacy levels.
Young people across the continent continue to serve as a powerful catalyst for change, leading climate change awareness projects and programs, offering innovative solutions, protesting and engaging with their governments and communities with the call for increased, people centred, just and inclusive climate action. These climate justice warriors and activists have been working tirelessly to help build informed and climate literate communities that understand climate change threats and supports government and international action.
We recognise and celebrate the huge contributions of the indefatigable climate activists who have made a significant impact in leading efforts to rise up against climate crisis, demanding action to help protect the earth.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (37 — Chad)
President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is an expert in the adaptation and mitigation of indigenous peoples to climate change.
She is a member of the Mbororo pastoralist people in Chad and an advocate for the greater inclusion of indigenous people and their knowledge and traditions in the global movement to fight the effects of climate change.
For centuries, indigenous peoples have protected the environment, which provides them food, medicine and so much more. Now it’s time to protect their unique traditional knowledge that can bring concrete solutions to implement sustainable development goals and fight climate change — Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim
She is also an expert in traditional ecological knowledge and her vision is to grow support for both traditional knowledge and science to improve resilience to climate change especially for rural communities.
Hindou began advocating for indigenous rights and environmental protection aged 16. She advances environmental protection for indigenous peoples by participating in international policy dialogues, pressuring governments to recognise land rights of indigenous peoples and advance their solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation. Her work with indigenous communities at the local and global level has achieved broad recognition and support.
Vanessa Nakate (24 — Uganda)
Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate is a familiar face on social media, a leading advocate for climate equality. She is the founder of 1 Million Activist Stories and the Rise up Movement, which both aim to amplify the stories of climate activists.
The 24-year-old climate activist has been at the forefront of raising awareness on the effects of climate change having witnessed the impact of climate change in her own community and country.
Africa is the least polluting or carbon emitting continent, but despite its low emissions, the region is one of the most vulnerable and severely affected by the climate crisis. Vanessa is also fighting for marginalised voices to be better represented in the environmental movement.
“I started the Rise Up Movement because I noticed that different voices in Africa were trying so much to get their message out there, to tell their stories, and yet it was almost impossible” — Vanessa Nakate
Kiara Nirghin (21 — South Africa)
Kiara Nirghin is a South African inventor, scientist, activist and speaker, known for her award-winning work on an innovative method to increase food security in drought stricken areas that won the 2016 Google Science Fair.
She invented a low-cost, biodegradable superabsorbent polymer that can save crops during droughts. Her project titled: “No More Thirsty Crops” was a response to one of South Africa’s worst droughts in 45 years. The biodegradable and superabsorbent material can be planted with crops to create mini reservoirs of water in the soil. The polymer improves the environment, increases the chance for plants to sustain growth by 84 percent during a drought and can increase food security by 73 percent.
I want to innovate and solve problems and create products that help people. That’s what I see myself doing — Kiara Nirghin
The Google Science Fair victory has given Kiara a platform to speak about climate change, science, innovation and education. Currently an undergraduate student at Stanford University, she is now actively raising awareness on the importance of protecting the climate and environment through innovation, getting young girls involved in STEM and supporting people centred and inclusive climate action initiatives.
Oladosu Adenike (26 — Nigeria)
Oladosu Titilope Adenike is a climate justice activist, eco-reporter, eco-feminist, the initiator and organiser of the Fridays For Future movement in Nigeria. She’s the founder of “ILeadClimate” a youth-led movement which aims to showcase the threat of climate change and how it can create political instability in the fight for resources.
Oladosu specialises in equality, security and peace building across Africa, especially in the Lake Chad region, and she tirelessly campaigns for the restoration of Lake Chad.
An award winner, Oladosu is passionate about encouraging youth involvement in climate action through climate education and raising awareness on the importance of women’s environmental rights.
“I call myself an ecofeminist because the climate crisis is not gender-neutral – it is first and foremost a crisis for women and girls. Women bear the largest burden of the climate crisis, despite having the smallest carbon footprint” — Oladosu Adenike
Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti (26 — Kenya)
Kenyan environment and climate activist Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti is a key campaigner encouraging youth involvement in climate action. She is the founder of the Green Generation Initiative, which nurtures young environmental enthusiasts.
The initiative also focuses on greening schools, environmental education, addressing food insecurity by planting fruit trees as well as inculcating a tree growing culture for forest cover increment through adopt a tree campaign. Green Generation Initiative has now planted 30,000 tree seedlings in Kenya.
I’m passionate about the environment because I was lucky enough to be able to connect with nature when I was young, and as long as I can remember I was angered by environmental injustices whenever I saw them, like people cutting down trees and polluting our rivers — Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti
She raises environmental awareness through her social media platforms and has showcased her climate action solutions in over 10 high level international conferences.
Olumide Idowu (Nigeria)
Olumide Idowu is a prominent environmental campaigner and the co-founder of a youth-led NGO, International Climate Change Development Initiative which identifies key environment-based issues affecting development across Africa and seeks to build a climate smart generation through creative dialogues and innovations.
He is a climate change policy expert and trainer with extensive experience in creating, facilitating and managing youth-led projects. Idowu has also represented Nigeria and Africa at over 25 high-level global governance and environment meetings on sustainable development and has served as the African Youth Champion for UNISDR.
Idowu has been involved in building solid relationships, writing articles, contributing to working groups and leveraging social media platforms to promote climate change awareness and education.
Nkosilathi Nyathi (18 — Zimbabwe)
Despite stereotypes of disinterest in climate and environmental issues among the youth, young people have been on the frontlines of the struggle to build a just, inclusive and better future for all. Zimbabwean environmental activist Nkosilathi Nyathi started campaigning at the age of 10 and advocates for youth inclusion in decision making roles.
He believes young people’s efforts towards climate justice can not materialise without their voice at decision making platforms. Nkosilathi attended the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP25 in Madrid campaigning for more climate actions and youth inclusion.
Nkosilathi has been a strong voice of the youth and grassroots groups. Since 2015, he has been engaged with UNICEF and Greenline Africa advocating for climate action.
“I live it, my family and friends live it too. I stand in solidarity with countless young people who want their voices to be heard and acted upon for climate action. We are becoming more certain that we will be heard and those in power will listen” — Nkosilathi Nyathi
Portia Adu-Mensah (Ghana)
Climate change activist Portia Adu-Mensah is the Founder of Dream Hunt an NGO in Ghana that works in sustainable development and alternative sources of livelihood. She’s also the National Coordinator of 350 G-ROC (Ghana Reducing Our Carbon), a youth-led organisation established in 2013 with a goal to champion renewable energy and eliminate fossil fuels.
She has led and supported environmental campaigns and events that promote environmental sustainability and climate justice in Ghana.
I think climate change is everybody’s business. As Ghanaians, we think climate change is far from us — Portia Adu-Mensah
As a committed climate leader, Portia has been campaigning for Ghana to imagine and work towards a socially and environmentally just, zero-carbon future.
Portia’s activism is centred on raising awareness about the possibility of a carbon-free future and the potential of renewable energy in Ghana. Her work has shown the power of grassroots movements in ending the era of fossil fuels.
Hilda Flavia Nakabuye (24 —Uganda)
The climate crisis has been affecting the security, livelihoods, and food productivity of many African people and Ugandan climate and environmental rights activist Hilda Nakabuye has witnessed the real effects of climate change first hand.
She has been protesting in Kampala since 2017 when she realised climate change was causing droughts affecting her grandmother’s ability to grow and provide food. She started the Fridays For Future Uganda Chapter in 2019, a youth-led movement that calls on governments, the corporate world, individuals and communities to get involved in addressing the climate crisis. Through Fridays For Future, Nakabuye has been raising awareness campaigns on many climate issues including pollution and the importance of planting trees.
Nakabuye has also been tirelessly working and campaigning to bring more racial diversity to the global climate movement.
She also advocates for greater gender equality and racial diversity in the climate change movement.
“The debate on climate change is not for whites only” — Hilda Nakabuye
Chibeze Ezekiel (41 — Ghana)
Chibeze Ezekiel, an award winning activist is the national coordinator of 350 Ghana Reducing Our Carbon (350 G-ROC), an affiliate of the environmental NGO 350.org. He founded the Strategic Youth Network for Development, which works with young people in education and awareness campaigns on renewable energy and climate crisis.
In 2013, the Ghanaian government proposed the construction of a 700-MW coal power plant next to the new port in Srafa Aboano, a coastal farming and fishing community in Ekumfi district. Coal is the world’s most polluting and unsustainable form of power generation. Electricity generated from fossil fuels is the largest single contributor to rise in carbon emissions, significantly driving the climate crisis. Together with a group of activists Chibeze launched a campaign to force the Ghanaian government to stop the project. The government eventually abandoned construction of the $1.5 billion coal plant after sustained pressure from activists.
Chibeze received the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize for his efforts leading the anti-coal campaign work. He continues to organise Ghana’s youth around environmental sustainability and climate crisis issues.
“Our campaigns have been effective especially on climate change, which has led to our recognition and active participation in national climate change discourse” — Chibeze Ezekiel
This article is written as part of a storytelling series called: Symbiocene – Finding Coexistence: Earth, Water, Wind, Fire and Us, a collection commissioned in partnership with African Crossroads. The contents of the series are the sole responsibility of This Is Africa Trust, and cannot be regarded as reflecting the official position of Hivos Foundation.