Africa is the world’s youngest region, and its young population is seen as both a crisis and an opportunity. Youth unemployment is front and center in the minds of African policymakers and is a topic of much discussion and research.

At the same time, Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate shocks, given the dependency of food production on rain-fed agriculture and pastoralism. Forecast scenarios predict that Africa will face a myriad of impacts caused by a rapidly changing climate as the number of days per year with life-threatening temperatures above 41ºC increases and the incidence of floods surges, driven by sea level rises in coastal areas.

Climate change will significantly and adversely impact youth employment, especially in the informal sector. Most youths in Africa live in rural areas and work in agriculture—the economic sector set to be most affected by climate change. Furthermore, Africa has the fastest urbanization rate worldwide. Urban youth livelihoods will be impacted by climate in their places of work (often their homes in informal settlements), and subsequently their employment opportunities.

The youth of 2030 will be in their peak earning period by 2050, when some of the worst impacts of climate change are projected to hit the continent. In the absence of effective social protection programs, today’s youth must start saving, by age 40, for old age. A worsening economy and livelihood opportunities due to climate change will be a drag on their economic opportunities and savings.

Despite these worrying predictions, Africa’s think tanks and research institutes have not studied in sufficient detail, the nexus between climate change and youth challenges on the continent. There have been few cross interactions or partnerships between think tanks and youth organizations in the climate space. “Elevating youth voices on climate action”—a new project of the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings—intends to contribute to addressing this gap and breaking the silos between these two groups. As a start, the project will have the following five objectives:

  1. Identify existing opportunities and gaps in Africa’s youth-led climate action.
  2. Strengthen the capacity of youth organizations across the continent through access to the latest evidence, research, and policy options on climate change in Africa, generated through collaborative research work with Africa’s think tanks.
  3. Provide think tanks access to the local knowledge and activism platforms of Africa’s youth groups in the climate change space.
  4. Enable Africa’s youth to effectively engage with the highest level of decisionmakers through partnerships with think tanks.
  5. Strengthen cross-country learning or regional exchanges across Africa, between networks of think tanks and youth groups leading to stronger positions and more favorable policy outcomes in international climate dialogues, and continental youth-led programs for climate action.

Read the full article about breaking silos in climate action work by Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Aloysius Uche Ordu at Brookings.