acing repeated disruptions in education and a sharp drop in employment, young people have been forced to bear the brunt of the Covid-19 global emergency. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that globally, employment in young people between the ages of 15 and 24 fell by 8.7 per cent last year, compared to 3.7 per cent for adults.
In 2021, World Youth Skills Day took place in this bleak context. This year, it honored young people’s resilience and creativity in overcoming the Covid crisis.
Much like every crisis, the pandemic’s recovery phase presents a wealth of opportunities. As expressed by Prof. Anthony Nyong, Regional Director of GCA Africa, we now have a chance to build back better.
“We’ve realized that the coping mechanisms we use in adaptation are exactly what are seeing us through part of the Covid issues…We can no longer be separating streams of finance: this is financing Covid, this is financing climate change. Both of them have to come together, this gives us the opportunity to do things better. We don’t have to rebuild the way we built that put us in the problem in the first instance,” he said, during GCA’s second Youth Adaptation Dialogue.
The event, held on 15th July to mark World Youth Skills Day, focused on reimagining the jobs and entrepreneurship skills that youth will need in a post-pandemic world. The activity was organized by GCA’s Youth Adaptation Network and the African Development Bank (AfDB) and was the second in a series of monthly youth dialogues launched in June. Its theme was based on the Global Youth Call to Action: Adapt for our Future conceived by the Youth Adaptation Network, which highlights entrepreneurship, skills development and jobs as key priorities for the Decade of Action.
“GCA aims to empower youth to drive the adaptation agenda and adopt solutions with a special focus on creating adaptation jobs and promote entrepreneurship and innovative solutions,” said event-organizer and moderator Adriana Valenzuela, GCA’s Youth Leadership Program Lead.
In Africa, where 60% of the population is below 25 years and the median age is 19.5 years, GCA aims to mobilize $12.5 billion to support adaptation by 2025 through the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP), which puts youth at the center of adaptation actions, Prof. Nyong explained, adding that there are several programs in place, such as the Youth Adaptation Challenge, that will support at least 300 youth in developing and implementing promising business ideas for adaptation by 2025. The goal is also to unlock $3 billion in credits for youth-led adaptation businesses so that young people can implement the ideas they develop.
The dialogue, which brought together youth leaders, members of international organizations, the United Nations, and the private sector, featured examples of concrete, youth-led projects around the world that connect young people with their communities to find sustainable solutions that generate jobs and entrepreneurship skills for youth.
Betty Osei Bonsu, Project Coordinator of the Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO) based in Ghana, delivered an inspiring presentation on how her organization contributes to community skills development through sustainable endeavors in Accra and throughout the country. GAYO generates jobs and builds youth skills by producing fertilizer and locally-made soap from organic waste, through university eco-clubs, and by providing communities with potable drinking water and water for irrigation and farming.
“The strength and progress of a community lies in the development of their youth, therefore why not equip them with the skills needed to adapt to the impacts of climate change?” asked Osei.
Dominique Souris, the Executive Director of the Canada-based, global non-profit Youth Climate Lab (YCL), which reaches youth in more than 77 countries, started her presentation by pointing out that she was tuning in from the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe that most of us know as Ottawa. Souris shared a map of the traditional, indigenous territories that extend all over Canada.
“We always start our presentations with this slide and this acknowledgement, because so much of climate action is tied to land and part of our disconnection and the reasons we have climate change in the first place is our disconnection to land,” she said.
YCL carries out a variety of projects such as “policy jams,” workshops to build youth skills and understanding about policy issues, and a 12-week, virtual incubator program for “greenpreneurs.”
“We focus on equipping young people to reimagine and rebuild the flawed systems holding in place climate inaction,” Souris said.
Monalisa, Communications Coordinator of Fairventures International and founder of Limarupa in Indonesia, shared a video about the work of her organization. Limarupa is dedicated to creating natural straws from grass that only grows in peatlands, responding to the demand for plastic alternatives while creating income opportunities for local communities.
Keynote listeners Kenneth Abraham, a UNESCO Program Officer, and Marta Martínez Sánchez from the Spanish energy company Iberdrola, contributed their expert recommendations and views, and praised the commendable efforts of the three young leaders.
“Drawing from your experiences there is a need to give learners the tools to create their own jobs and determine their career paths. I think you are very much supporting this direction through your efforts. Doing so will develop an entrepreneurial mindset to be able to perform the role of employee as global and digital citizens,” said Abraham, whose recommendations are listed below.
Recommendations for Young Leaders:
Martínez shared examples of how Iberdrola works with youth to develop their green, entrepreneurial skills.
“In the energy sector we have a key contribution for the economy and it’s materializing in opportunities for everybody, but especially for youth, because we count on youth and all the young people in the world to make these transformations and accelerate them,” she said. Iberdrola’s youth focused activities include internships and grants for investigation, hackathons and challenges for entrepreneurs.
The dialogue also included an interactive session led by Young Leader Irfan Ullah Afridi, founder of Sustainability Week in Pakistan.