Team Lioness member Purity Lakara: educating and inspiring future rangersread more
youth shaping the future of Africa’s conservation
“If you are seated here, you are part of history,” said Charles Oluchina, regional program coordinator for IUCN Eastern & Southern Africa at the closing of the Youth Pre-Congress Workshop at this week’s first-ever African Protected Areas Congress (APAC). “You will shape the future of conservation in Africa.”
Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 70% of sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30. Such a high number of young people is an opportunity for the continent’s growth—but only if they are fully empowered to realize their best potential.
This week’s Youth Pre-Congress Workshop wasn’t merely an act of inclusion, but rather that of true engagement on economic growth, innovation, and achievement of the continent’s conservation goals. Young people were empowered to come together in active participation ahead of the subjects in the room at the main Congress.
My own role as an IUCN Young Professional in 2018 helped to form my role and passion for engagement in APAC. When we originally identified the need for APAC. We travelled to different countries to lobby African countries to support and even host APAC. Four years later, that dream has come to fruition. Today, I serve as international policy lead for IFAW in Africa and a co-lead in developing the “People” thematic area of APAC—and thus the Youth Pre-Congress Workshop.
This APAC Youth Pre-Congress Workshop has enabled these 65 young participants to thoughtfully explore the Congress agenda, how it may affect them, and how they can contribute to both the discussions here in Kigali and implementation at home. Participants identified priority areas for their own engagement so to ensure they are part of the resolutions that will be adopted here at APAC. They seek to ensure that the voices of all youth are heard and recognized as equal partners in conservation.
In many countries outside of Africa, ageing populations are facing high healthcare costs and a shortage of skilled labour. In Africa on the other hand, young people face underemployment and lack of opportunities or even access to information about opportunities. Yet young people are contributing daily to the benefit of their communities, and this inaugural APAC will provide them an opportunity to advocate for the change and impact the next generation is capable of.
It is an inspiration to see many young people across Africa stepping forward to be part of the decision-making in Kigali. These young attendees are vital to the conversations ahead, and as IFAW we pledge our full support to work with them, to listen to them, and to implement the commitments that were made at this Youth Pre-Congress Workshop.
We believe in true investment in youth development at all levels of conservation and animal and habitat protection. It is through platforms like these where we find influence and inspiration as we head back to our work on the ground.
And we commend Africa and its leaders, as this workshop is further evidence to prioritization of the next generation in Africa. Each of these impressive change-makers can now seize the opportunity at hand and claim their seat at the table, as they will soon be our leaders and policy makers.
It is the final day of the #APAC2022 Youth Pre-Congress with Rwanda Minister of Youth&Culture @RMbabazi encouraging the youth to continue to show great leadership, and urged them to ensure that the youth voice is not only heard,but influences the conservation agenda @SUSOyouth pic.twitter.com/oSlfZsr9dp— IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress (@APA_Congress) July 17, 2022
As World Leaders of Today executive director Peter Moll closed the Workshop on behalf of the group, “We are youth champions, but we need champions for youth.”
It is my honor and promise to support the next generation on its journey toward a world where animals and people thrive in this place we call home.
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