International Studies & Programs

Youth Essay Contest: First Place

Working Together to Create the Africa We Want

Tricia Mawire (Age 24, Zimbabwe)

The sun beats down on the ground that’s mostly bare, save for a few stray strands of brown, withered grass and scattered tree stumps. The grass shrivels and shrinks away from the scorching heat of the sun, hot enough to make the ground crack—a growing mass of zig zags covering the bare earth. A breeze, barely discernible from the scorching rays of the sun, blows by raising dust from dried up riverbeds that haven’t been touched by the cool drops of rain in a long time. It’s unbearably hot, there are no trees, no water, and barely any living human beings. Scary isn’t it? But that is exactly where we are headed if we do not make a change and start caring about our environment and resources.

When I think of the future, I like to picture an Africa richly dressed in green shrubbery that covers the land with specks of gold from the sun, scattered across green, fresh blades of grass. Tall trees weighed down by masses of vibrant green leaves that sway as they dance to the melody of the waves crashing against rocks in the riverbeds and seas. When I envision Africa, I see life.

My vision is to create a green Africa with zero harm on its environment.

But there are challenges to attaining this vision. The number one challenge is the lack of knowledge we have of the strain we put on the environment by our daily activities. For example, not many people know that in order to have electricity in their homes, up to 10,000 liters of water are required per second to produce electricity using coal. The coal used for electricity results in the release of various environmentally harmful gases, which contribute to the continuous increase of surface temperatures on earth and climate change.

In a rural area a man starts a fire and burns a whole field to catch a rabbit. In urban areas a child plays with running water from a tap and a family leaves the electricity running day and night. They are all unwittingly ignorant of the harm these seemingly small actions have on our water and energy resources and our environment.

Financial barriers are another challenge, as huge investments are needed to ensure the preservation of Africa’s resources for future generations. These investments are required for implementation of alternative sustainable energy sources such as solar energy, in order to eliminate the environmentally degrading technologies in use today. Significant investments are also required for technology to provide purified water to people without access to clean water.
Our growing population also presents the problem of unsustainable consumption causing an imbalance between available resources and the people using these resources.

How can we remedy the one-sided relationship we have with our environment of taking and never giving back? First and foremost, all of Africa must acknowledge that there is a problem. Over half of the population of Africa has no idea where we are headed. We see some of the effects like climate change but we don’t understand what’s happening, why it’s a problem, or how we can stop it. Each individual must think of the impact of every intended action on our environment and what they can do to ensure future generations have access to the resources we have been blessed with.

Enlightenment of the situation is only the start. Scientists, industrialists, and students should come together to find solutions to these problems. Students are mostly youth, the future of tomorrow, and their young minds are brimming with ideas that never go far because they have no way to be heard. Our scientists have good theoretical concepts but are often not be able to take their ideas beyond a theoretical approach. Industrialists have the means to implement but they need good theoretical concepts and supporting facts. If these three groups came together with their respective contributions, it could make the difference between the end of Africa and the growth of an Africa that several generations to come can enjoy in safety and comfort.

The formation of environmental activists’ boards consisting primarily of the aforementioned groups could assist in educating the rest of the community on the situation and finding ways to ensure the sustainability of Africa’s resources. The greatest impacts are made from teamwork and so all African countries must work together. In order to increase the reach of the message, organizations such as the Southern African Development Community and the African Union should also be a part of these activists’ groups.

As an African youth, my responsibility is to ensure Africa’s welfare by spreading the word about our current environmental standing and the future we may face if we do not make a change. I will also educate and teach my peers, my elders, and younger generations of about the little things they can do to protect the environment. It is the simple things, like committing to using water and energy sparingly and avoiding starting fires, that can help make Africa a leader in resource management and environmental protection.

What about you? Are you ready to be the change you want to see in Africa?