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Young Africans Rise Up: Leading the Charge in Natural Resource and Environmental Governance

Introduction

Africa, a continent luxuriously endowed with natural resources, paradoxically struggles with widespread poverty and underdevelopment. This disconnect between resource wealth and economic prosperity was at the core of Mr. Chibeze Ezekiel’s presentation at the African Youth Conference on Natural Resources and Environmental  Governance (read more: https://syndghana.org/african-youth-conference/ ).

A picture of Mr Chibeze Ezekiel during his presentation at the African Youth Conference

Mr. Chibeze Ezekiel, founder of the Strategic Youth Network for Development (SYND) and a 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize laureate, challenged the young participants from across the continent to be the architects of change. Highlighting various African government charters and policies that emphasize youth participation, he underscored the critical role young people can play in ensuring sustainable and equitable management of the continent’s natural resources.

The Paradox of Plenty

The presentation unpacked Africa’s abundant resource picture, from vast reserves of minerals and oil to fertile lands and fresh water. Yet, statistics paint a grim reality. UNEP reports Africa loses a staggering $195 billion annually due to factors like illegal mining, unregulated fishing, and environmental degradation.

Prospects for Africa

Despite this disheartening reality, Mr. Chibeze emphasized prospects for a brighter future. He pointed to the potential of harnessing these resources to finance development and propel Africa towards prosperity. The key lies in ensuring “results-oriented, climate resilient, and sustainable” practices in resource exploitation.

Mr. Ezekiel lauded initiatives like Ghana’s Public Institution Accountability Committee, which tracks the utilization of revenue from oil and gas resources. He advocated for similar mechanisms across the continent to ensure transparency and accountability.

A Call to Action: Shifting the Narrative

But how can this transformation be achieved? Mr. Chibeze’s clarion call urged young Africans to shift from being bystanders to active participants. He emphasized the need to be “solution-oriented” and embrace the principles of “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities” (CBDR-RC) in tackling climate change.

SYND: Leading by Example

The presentation showcased inspiring examples of youth-led solutions spearheaded by SYND. From the Young Green Entrepreneurs Forum that empowers young innovators to tackle climate change, to mangrove restoration projects and initiatives promoting youth participation in agricultural policymaking, SYND is paving the way for a more sustainable future.

A pivotal initiative is the Youth in Natural Resources and Environmental Governance Platform (Youth-NREG). Launched in 2019, this platform empowers young Africans across educational backgrounds to engage in crucial conversations around natural resource management and environmental governance.

Mr. Chibeze concluded by urging young people to embrace a “paradigm shift.” He challenged them to be a “new breed” of Africans, equipped with a “renewed mindset” and a resolute commitment to eradicating poverty and underdevelopment through responsible resource management.

Conclusion

The fight against climate change and the quest for a more equitable Africa demands the active participation of its youth. As Mr. Ezekiel aptly quoted Robert Swan, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” The young people of Africa are rising to the challenge, and their leadership will be instrumental in shaping a sustainable and prosperous future for the continent.

By: Rashid Latif Bukari

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Powering Africa Summit 2024: Energy transition, Capital flows, and Pace escalation of projects across the continent.

Summary

The Powering Africa Summit (PAS24) recently convened in Washington, D.C., heralding a pivotal gathering of industry leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders to address the pressing challenges and promising opportunities in Africa’s energy landscape. Over the course of two days, participants engaged in insightful discussions, high-level boardroom sessions, and strategic dialogues aimed at catalysing sustainable development and driving impactful change across the continent.

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A significant highlight of PAS24 was the official inauguration of the partnership between the East African Community (EAC) and EnergyNet Ltd., underscoring a commitment to collaborative action and regional cooperation. Spearheaded by H.E. Honourable Andrea Malueth, Deputy Secretary General of the EAC Secretariat, this partnership signals a pivotal step towards fostering synergy and leveraging collective efforts to address energy challenges in East Africa.

A focal point of PAS24 was the Ministerial Roundtable, where dignitaries and policymakers convened to discuss critical issues such as lowering debt costs and exploring alternatives to sovereign guarantees. Abebe Selassie of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) emphasized the importance of addressing debt dynamics and fostering climate-resilient development pathways.

The summit commenced with a compelling discussion on ‘Accelerating Energy Access,’ underscoring the urgent need for enhanced collaboration among governments, private sector entities, and international financial institutions. Esteemed speakers, including Adam Cortese of Sun Africa and USAID Administrator Samantha Power, emphasized the critical role of innovative financing models and climate-smart energy strategies in propelling electricity access across Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Africa stands on the cusp of a unique opportunity. Export-Import Bank of the United States would like to be a partner on that journey.” Judith Pryor, who addressed the opening remarks on ‘How EXIM is investing in major energy infrastructure projects’.

Throughout PAS24, esteemed thought leaders and industry experts shared valuable insights and perspectives on various facets of Africa’s energy transition. From discussions on lowering debt costs and exploring alternatives to sovereign guarantees to examining the role of development finance institutions in financing a just energy transition, the summit provided a platform for robust dialogue and knowledge exchange. Pradeep Pursnani of Konexa expressed excitement about the evolving narrative in energy access, underscoring the importance of innovative strategies and inclusive solutions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A special highlight of the summit was the Celebration Dinner hosted by Deloitte, dedicated to recognizing the invaluable contributions of women in driving economic development. Adaku Ufere and Lisa Witte delivered inspiring opening remarks, underscoring the transformative impact of gender-inclusive policies and initiatives in Africa’s energy sector.

Charting the Path Forward

As PAS24 drew to a close, participants reflected on key takeaways and actionable insights garnered from the summit’s deliberations. With a renewed commitment to collaboration, innovation, and sustainable development, stakeholders departed with a shared vision of advancing Africa’s energy agenda and forging a brighter, more resilient future for generations to come. Angela Nalikka of the African Development Bank Group emphasized the urgency of a just energy transition and the imperative of ensuring access to basic equipment for sustainable development.

In summary, PAS24 served as a dynamic platform for meaningful dialogue, strategic collaboration, and actionable solutions, underscoring the collective resolve to overcome challenges and unlock the vast potential of Africa’s energy sector. As the continent embarks on its journey towards a sustainable energy future, the insights and partnerships forged at PAS24 will continue to guide and inspire transformative change across Africa and beyond.

PAS24 concluded with expressions of gratitude to participants, speakers, sponsors, and organizers for their invaluable contributions to the conference’s success. Special thanks were extended to summit sponsors, including Power Africa, Sun Africa, African Development Bank Group, and Marathon Digital Holdings, for their steadfast support.

Author

Oluoch Were is the Regional Director for Kenya, and East Africa at Renewables in Africa.

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Advancing Energy Research in South Africa through SANEDI: Prof. Sampson Mamphweli’s view.

The organization’s role in coordinating national research in the energy space, including renewable energy and energy storage.

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