Youth Opportunities in the Green Economy
By Nkosinathi Mhlanga
According to Greenpeace – the world’s leading independent environmental campaign organization, the impact of climate change could have massive environmental, social and economic consequences around the world. Africa is on the frontline of the impact and its reality is already visible around the world through floods and prolonged and more severe droughts, rising sea levels, changing ecosystems, dying coral reefs and melting ice. The City of Tshwane held its first youth programme around the issue titled “Youth and The Green Economy” on June 20, at Garankuwa Zone 1 Community Hall. The programme included a dialogue with the youth on the issue of environmental sustainability and the career and entrepreneurial opportunities available for the youth in the green economy. More than 100 young people from different parts of the city and from different institutions thronged the hall with enthusiasm to engage on the dialogue. This was the first youth green economy programme in the country and the capital city was the first municipality to host it.
Every year, over 190 countries meet for a Conference of Parties (COP) under the framework of climate change. The purpose of their meeting is to negotiate global agreements on how to limit greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent catastrophic climate change. The City of Tshwane has taken advantage of this issue by developing a strategic framework for a green economy that creates jobs and stimulates growth and sustainable development. To ensure that its vision of the green economy becomes effective, the city took advantage of the month of June to engage the youth on its Green Outreach Programme. Furthermore, the city launched the Innovation Hub which is centred on entrepreneurship and innovation in the climate technology space.
Councilor Mosupyoe Letsholo opened the event with a warm welcome to all the guests, partners and stakeholders. “I plead with young people to use this opportunity because it has never happened to any township before. Give us your ideas and we as the government look forward to support your programmes.”
Tshwane Unit Chairperson for Youth Development, Mr Sibusiso Ngobeni, explained the purpose of the day to the guests after the opening by the councilor. He added, “You are given an opportunity as a young person to speak about the green economy. Let each young person speak in his or her home language. Let’s tell the city that as young people we are vibrant by bringing innovative ideas. Let this programme not only be for this month of June just because it’s Youth Month.” Senior Manager for the Climate Innovation Centre and Green Economy Project at the Innovation Hub – Dr Charity Mbileni encouraged the youth during her presentation to follow the legacy of the 1976 youth in tackling contemporary challenges they are facing. “In 1976 young people fought for a change. We are still facing similar challenges and you have an opportunity as young people to tackle them,” she said.
Dr Charity also outlined the opportunities that the Innovation Hub has for the youth. “Our main focus is in entrepreneurship. We encourage entrepreneurship spirit. We are currently faced with climate change, poverty, and unemployment. We are fostering entrepreneurship in innovation, but at the end we want to achieve job creation. We offer various services from access to finance to access to facilities-to mention a few. We also have projects for unemployed graduates with degrees in the sector. We want them to become entrepreneurs.”
Specialist Consultant in Sustainability, Elize Hatting from Green Talent, explained the consequences of climate change,
“If you look at sustainable development, it’s the point of development that meets the needs for the present generation without compromising the needs of the future generations. If we continue the rate that we doing business and using natural capital, then there wouldn’t be much left for our children’s children. It’s important that we understand climate change, understand that we need clean water, good air to breath and healthy food to eat-without these we cannot survive as a human race.”
Opportunities for the youth
Hatting is also of the opinion that young people are not well-informed about issues of climate change which dictates their attitudes towards environmental sustainability. “I do find significant people that are passionate and their eyes are opening up. Sometimes you need a little bit of light to light up a big fire and it will spread. People will start asking the right questions and demand that they receive education.”
She encouraged the youth by saying “Be custodians of the earth. Do not let current generations steal from you. Do not let them steal the quality of life that you would like to leave behind for your children’s children. Protect the natural resources. Ensure that there is equality that you can alleviate poverty without leaving a bigger gap, without damaging the earth.”
The South African Weather Services also outlined some of the career options for young people. Meteorologist - Edwin Thema said, “As South African Weather services we have careers for the youth such as becoming a specialist in meteorology which is a three year degree course found in different universities in the country. Once you complete that you can branch out to do research or climatology or operational forecaster, air quality specialist which is one year honoursdegree. You can then be a specialist at the South African Weather Services. Every year we do roadshows in different communities throughout the country.”
Responses from the youth
Langalibalele Sikosana from Ekangala, a green economy entrepreneur said, “Today I received useful information about the Innovation Hub-for the fact that we in the City of Tshwane we have a place where we can bring our ideas, and where our ideas can be developed and funded. I am very excited about the initiative-it was refreshing to hear how climate change affects us as people in South Africa... Perhaps where (the government) is lacking is practical service delivery because the organizations and institutions are based in towns which are not easily accessed by the right people who need them in townships. It took us a long time to receive assistance for the project we involved in and the process is very slow.”
Magnificent Mokoena from Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Garankuwa said, “In our community we plant trees to control climate change, reducing high temperatures because trees absorb gases such as carbon dioxide. As a born free I will use this opportunity to bring change in my community by educating them about climate changes and also try to organize programmes on my campus.”
Although among the youth who were present at the event there were those who knew about climate change, its consequences and the green economy there were also those who admitted that they did not know much about the subject matter. One of them is Eliya Mogale who is also a student at TUT: “I have no idea what climate change is but from what I have learned on this programme is that we need to renew things that we mostly use, and that pollution contributes in climate change in our country. I am very interested about the opportunities presented to us and I am willing to learn more about the green economy. It is our responsibility as a free generation to acquire education and foster changes in our communities.”
Despite the negative impact climate change has in our communities, it also presents great opportunities for the youth which the government is willing to support. The power to change things for the better remains a responsibility of every young person in the country.