Advocating for Youth Contribution to Sustainability in sub-Saharan Africa, the Role of Research and Dialogue

YouSustain 2023 youth 01

Africa is on a trajectory to a youthful future at a scale unprecedented in its history. This has veered the continent on a path that requires concerted efforts to drive its sustainability needs especially at urban centers. At the heart of these efforts are the youth of the continent. The youth of Africa are contributing in their small way to reshaping the future of urban cities across this high-spirited continent. It is in these efforts that the Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO), in collaboration with its partners organized the second edition of the YouSustain Conference under the theme ‘Sustaining sub-Saharan African cities through Youth  Ecopreneurship’

On the 6th to 8th December 2023, over 400 passionate youth from Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Uganda, Namibia, Sierra Leone, and Kenya converged, not just as participants but as visionaries in their own right. These young researchers and green entrepreneurs gathered with a singular purpose: to discuss, deliberate, and showcase the indispensable role of youth in championing the cause of sustainability in the urban heartlands of sub-Saharan Africa.

YouSustain 2023 youth group photo

Since its inception, the YouSustain Conference has emerged as a forum where young people, researchers, industry professionals, and students converge to explore the role of youth in driving sustainable development in sub-Saharan African cities through research and dialogue. The platform promotes equity by enabling young voices to discuss key issues and tackles financial barriers hindering sustainable initiatives. To foster participation in the conference, the partners provided travel and accommodation grants to participants. The conference partners allocated over US$10,000 worth of grants to the researchers and young ecopreneurs to help them turn their innovative research into businesses and expand green enterprises.

The three-day conference commenced with the opening speech by Mr Desmond Alugnoa, the co-founder of GAYO. His vision set the stage for a gathering that was more than a conference; it was a call to young people to contribute their energy to sustainability actions, urging them to harness their creativity in crafting viable green enterprises that could stand as bastions against the climatic challenges besieging the global south.

Echoing through the halls was the keynote address by Mr. Makafui Awuku, who delineated the environmental quagmire stemming from a dearth of sustainable initiatives. His call to action was clear and sound: “For the youth to band together, register your organizations, and tap into the wellsprings of collaboration that lay before you”.

The discourse on ethical business practices by Mr. Kofi Arhin, the representative of the National Entrepreneurship Innovations Planning (NEIP), underscored the symbiotic relationship between environmental sustainability and ethical entrepreneurship. His revelation of the Dawhenya greenhouse project served as an example of environmentally friendly agricultural practices, clarifying the path for collective youth action in sustainable development.

As the conference unfolded, the roundtable discussions, particularly those led by Ms. Selassie Charway and Ms. Chloe Asaam, delved into the heart of waste management challenges, unraveling the complexities of perception and policy that stood as formidable adversaries. Yet, in their discourse, they laid the seeds of change, sown by the hands of those who dared to envision a different future.

The YouSustain Conference emerged as a transformative journey, not merely bridging academia and the professional realm but igniting the innovative spirit of young researchers and ecopreneurs. It was a declaration of hope, with the site visit to the Or Foundation highlighting the transformative power of upcycling textile waste – a testament to sustainable innovation. This event transcended intellectual gatherings, catalyzing a movement where visionaries are not just dreaming of green futures but actively turning them into reality, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa’s urban development landscape. This epic narrative stands as an inspiring call to the youth of sub-Saharan Africa, positioning them not merely as participants but as architects of a sustainable future. The YouSustain Conference is immortalized as a beacon of hope and creativity, echoing through time as it inspires generations with its vision for a sustainable horizon. It marks a new era where green enterprises emerge as monuments to the creativity, resilience, and commitment of the youth, weaving a narrative of transformation and hope across the heart of sub-Saharan Africa.

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