Ahead of the 6th AU-EU Summit, the British Council and the Africa-Europe Foundation accelerated shared efforts to reinforce youth voice, agency and leadership at the heart of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP) and the Africa-Europe partnership in 2022.
Taking place as part of the EU-Africa Business Forum (EABF2022) during the Africa-Europe week, the ‘Stronger Together’ policy dialogue will serve as a crucial side event during this week and will mark a key moment with young people from both continents and senior decision makers to feed-into the Summit and the road to COP27.
A number of influencers and decision-makers are calling for young people in Europe and Africa to not only have a seat at the decision-making table, but also play a co-leadership role in the policy process.
Ahead of the 6th African Union-European Union Summit and COP27 which will take place in Egypt in November, participants at an event hosted by the British Council and the Africa-Europe Foundation on 15 February 2022 discussed how issues such as tackling climate change and addressing the energy transition in Europe and Africa would benefit from the views of the younger generation.
“Young people are better informed than anyone else, not just on general issues, but on the most complicated issues on the table,” said European Commission Executive Vice-President for the Green Deal Frans Timmermans.
“They know everything, and that makes it easier because you don’t have to explain anything, but it also makes our lives more difficult because you can’t get away with anything.”
He explained how the role of young people can be expanded, for example by including them at the negotiating table to ensure they are more actively involved.
Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland, Chair of the Elders and Honorary Co-president of the Africa Europe Foundation, agreed.
“We really have to listen to young people when they talk about co-leadership,” she stated. “They want the responsibility to be part of decision-making because they know they have a contribution to make.”
She went on to make the case for a more inclusive approach in general and emphasised that more women should be involved in the process.
“Now like never before is the right time for the youth to be at every single table,” argued the Egyptian MP and secretary general of the foreign relations committee Amira Saber, with other young speakers highlighting the need for adequate funding to support their involvement.
Lucy Waruingi, Executive Director for the African Conservation Centre, called for youth engagement to be prioritised throughout the “climate action value chain…from delegates who attend and negotiate, to those who push for proposals, to implementation in countries”.
She continued: “It’s time we moved from activism to action and give young people the space to put into actions the things they care passionately about.”
The debate also touched on the broader issue of climate protection and to what extent Europe can dictate to Africa how it should respond to the current challenge, given the latter barely contributed to the global rise in temperatures but is now suffering the most.
“We mustn’t have European solutions for Africa,” said Mary Robinson. She clarified that although Europe sees gas as a transition fuel, it wants to see African countries already start planning for a transition towards renewables.
“Africa is entitled to make the same mistakes as Europe,” countered Frans Timmermans, “but why would you?”
The commissioner also advocated for African countries to make the most of their natural resources, particularly solar energy.
“Why go for fossil if you can do it much cheaper through renewables that are plentiful in Africa and with which you can reach even the most remote communities?” he asked.
“Because once you bring electricity to remote communities, you will see an explosion in the educational system and the talent being tapped”.