African Youth Survey Special Climate Edition Across 15 African Countries Reveal High Levels of Climate Concerns and Dissatisfaction with Government Response

Johannesburg, South Africa, 7th of December 2021. Following the recent 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, findings of the African Youth SurveySpecial Climate Edition reveal that nearly three quarters (72%) of Africa’s young people consider climate change a key concern to their future (highest levels of concern in Malawi, Kenya, Ghana, Zambia), while only 46% of respondents are satisfied with their government’s handling of the crisis (dissatisfaction highest in South Africa, Angola, Sudan, Nigeria).

Commissioned by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, a leading African NGO, the Youth Survey of 4,500 face-to-face interviews with 18-24 year old’s revealed that:

  • 78% are worried about increasing levels of pollution (Most concerned including Ghana – 92%, Ethiopia – 89% and Rwanda – 88%)
  • 72% are highly concerned with the increasing frequency and severity of extreme environmental events (Top countries including Rwanda – 90%, Ghana – 89% and Ethiopia – 88%)
  • 77% are concerned that climate change will lead to an increase in infestation and crop destruction from insects (Greatest concern expressed from Ethiopia – 91%, Malawi – 91% and Kenya 88%)
  • 74% worry that climate change is destroying natural habitats critical for wildlife, farming, or living (Countries indicating greatest worry including Ethiopia – 87%, Malawi – 86% and Rwanda – 83%)
  • 72% are concerned by extreme heat waves or cold spells that last for abnormally long periods (Top countries including Ghana – 85%, Kenya – 85% and the DRC – 80%)

In step with those concerns, Africa’s youth, according to the Survey, want to see their governments doing more to address climate change, doing more to reduce carbon emissions and doing more to adopt green energy solutions.

  • 85% of African youth polled believe that their government needs to be more proactive in addressing climate change (Top countries including Rwanda – 99%, Ethiopia – 95% and Malawi – 95%)
  • 84% believe their governments should be working harder to adopt green energy solutions (Top countries including Rwanda – 98%, Malawi – 95% and Ethiopia – 94%)
  • 81% believe that their governments ultimately need to make a more concerted effort to reducing carbon emissions (Top countries including Rwanda – 97%, Ethiopia – 94% and Malawi – 93%)

Ivor Ichikowitz, Chairman of the Ichikowitz Foundation and sponsor of the African Youth Survey, stated that, “Over a quarter-century after COP was established, Africa tragically remains the most vulnerable continent to climate change, while contributing the least emissions. Our research shows that Africa’s youth are at the forefront of experiencing the consequences of climate change in their daily lives. Droughts, flooding, extreme temperatures, and destruction of natural habitats – climate change is already a devastating force affecting communities across Africa.

“It is however a positive sign that such a high percentile of Africa’s young people, the continent’s future decision-makers, are today speaking with one voice in demanding real action against the threat of climate change and challenging the world to follow suit. This is a motivating force for us; this is why we carry out the African Youth Survey each year; to give a strong voice to this demographic who are the most at risk of climate change inaction.”

Not only expressing trepidation about the impact on their surrounding communities and future generations on the continent, Africa’s young people feel strongly that climate change will harm them personally.

How Much Do You Think Climate Change Will….

Despite the fact that Africa contributes the least of any continent to global warming, its youth are not sitting idly by and waiting for their governments to take action. The Survey finds that 67% of the continent’s young people actively support, participate in or donate to environmental causes, and 64% are actively working towards reducing their carbon footprint, findings garnered notwithstanding a year that included economic lockdowns and numerous health emergencies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Richard Munang, Africa Regional Climate Change Coordinator at the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme (UNEP), stated that, “A key deduction from this survey is that climate change needs a whole of society approach to respond to it. It is not just a matter of calling for action from the government, but also a matter of introspection. Young people, for example, as the biggest non-state actor constituency in Africa and individual citizens, need to ask themselves what they can do, using what is accessible to them, beyond the traditional calls to government”.

“Several countries across Africa have instituted dedicated climate change laws and policies, with some having up to 26 pieces of legislation and policies on addressing matters of environment and climate change. This is commendable, but is this enough? No. It is time for constituencies of implementers – the non-state actors, including the youth, individual citizens and the informal sector – to be engaged to take a thorough look at these policies and see what is in them that they can start implementing from an enterprising dimension with what they already have. It takes two to tango, and climate action is no different – it takes complementarity between actors, both state and non-state”.

Ineza Umuhoza Grace, Rwanda-born Founder of the youth environment Non-Governmental-Organization (NGO) ‘Green Fighter’ stated that, “The African Youth Survey of 2021 finds that a vast majority of youth in Africa are deeply concerned about the extreme increase of environmental events taking place on and proving the vulnerability of our continent. Our youth are suggesting that their governments should do more in addressing climate change, adopting green energy solutions to reduce carbon emissions, for example; they are dissatisfied with efforts of leadership to-date. The Survey proves our continent’s commitment and its next generation’s willingness to be a lead global actor in environmental activism, shining a light that affirms that action and support for the youth movement in order to generate myriad projects, is necessary to have measurable impacts across African communities and beyond”.

Africa faces exponential collateral damage to the as yet unabated effects of climate change, posing systemic shocks to its economies, its agricultural and water infrastructures, public health, and livelihoods. Recent United Nations (UN) Environment Programme (UNEP)-commissioned research estimates that the cost of adapting to climate change across Africa could reach $50 billion per year by 2050.

Ivor Ichikowitz concluded that, “We must also recognize that taking action upon the intelligence which our Survey provides will offer Africa’s governments opportunities to harness our huge resource wealth potential and human capital to achieve numerous targets of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs); creating significant ‘green’ oriented market opportunities, expanding upon and developing whole industries anew on the continent to the benefit of all, including private sector and institutional investors”.

“The road to a sustainable green industrial revolution in the 21st century will not be easy to endeavor. Our Survey proves that Africa will have the right captains at the helm to navigate it. It’s our job today to empower and embolden them to do so”.

In step with its inaugural 2020 rendition, the soon-to-be-launched African Youth Survey 2021 will investigate the views, hopes and aspirations of the continent’s young people on the most pressing, contemporary issues that they face. In addition to findings on addressing climate change, topics will range from the impact and legacy of COVID-19 to contemporary education, the embrace of the digital revolution and the rise of e-commerce; from perspectives on maintaining stability against terrorism, crime and other threats to security and peace, to migration and refugee issues; from appreciation for democracy to community tolerance; from tackling corruption to fostering a conducive environment for entrepreneurism and innovation to thrive; from opinions on the economic potential of the newly-formed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to perceptions of foreign influencers, such as Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Biden Administration of the United States.

Establishing itself as the pre-eminent source of data on African youth, the Ichikowitz Foundation’s African Youth Survey offers global audiences each year a technical and representative sample across Southern, Central, East and West Africa, allowing for scientific tracking and benchmarking of attitudes and behaviors for the world’s largest collective marketplace and youth demographic over time. In 2021, the study was administered to 4,500 young African men and women, aged 18-24, across the major urban and rural centers of Angola, Congo Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.