In 2021, the Embassy of France in South Africa, Lesotho and Malawi and the African Climate Alliance (ACA) embarked on a partnership to support the organization’s efforts to advance youth mobilisation for climate justice and adaptation in South Africa and the continent.
ACA is broad-based youth-led environmental movement that spans several African countries. Born out of the first major youth-led climate protest in Cape Town in 2019, the movement has since grown into a dynamic network of over 300 youth activists, with the long-term aspiration of building an alliance across Africa to tackle the climate crisis and environmental injustices. It focuses on Afrocentric climate literacy and social justice activism, based on the realization that the European way of climate organizing does not suit the South African, and indeed, the African mold as it often excludes those most affected by inequality and climate injustice.
We are a team of (very) passionate volunteers.
We give our heart and soul to this work, whilst lifting each other up because we deeply believe in the cause.
The partnership with the Embassy supported ACA’s three programmes: Education, Advocacy, and Action. These programmes are intersecting and interdependent, considering that popular education is the premise of broad-based activism and advocacy, and that a multi-pronged engagement strategy is required to bring about the kind of change that needs to happen.
The Education programme seeks to improve the climate literacy of participants, through an Afrocentric lens, such that they may participate in the broader discussion and movement around climate change. It consists of online and in-person workshops, dialogues, and an Ambassadors programme. These activities are supported by educational resources developed by the ACA team, on the topics of climate change, climate justice, human rights, and environmental education. All the recordings and resources from these activities are shared online and are available in English, Xhosa, and Afrikaans. ACA also provides data reimbursements to ensure accessibility and a more inclusive participation from its participants, however, network and connection issues have still proved challenging this year, especially with power cuts.
ACA’s Back 2 Basics workshops and the Dialogues have proven to be successful and a need in the space that is South Africa – and further, the broader Africa. Young people want to take action but do not know how to begin. These workshops are a foundation for knowledge building to allow the young climate leaders who join them to act and advocate for climate, social, and ecological justice.
AACA will continue to roll out the workshops, with a focus on in-person sessions as COVID-19 restrictions fade.
Under the Education leg of ACA, the Ambassador programme aims to create more opportunities for young people to lead the change they want to see in the world, and build the capacity and collective experience of ACA youth as socio-environmental justice activists. It was launched in 2021 with a first cohort of 15 young climate activists from South Africa, Malawi, and Cameroon. These ambassadors were selected through an application and interview process, based on their experience and growth potential within ACA and the wider climate justice movement. Ambassadors meet for monthly meetings, engage in ACA activities, and are tasked to lead a specific project of their own. While ACA found it challenging to engage ambassadors in-between sessions, 8 of the 15 delegates successfully attended 75% of all meetings and workshops and completed a project of their own, thus earning a certificate of completion. Happy Mbewe, an ambassador from Malawi, hosted a climate awareness campaign and tree planting day at Zumulu Primary School. Petra de Beer, a South African ambassador, organized a protest in Stellenbosch on the Global Day of Climate Action (25 March 2022), in line with the #PeopleNotProfit campaign.
ACA’s Action programme focuses on climate mitigation, adaptation, and justice, by supporting and participating in various on-the-ground campaigns. One such campaign is the #CancelCoal coalition, whereing ACA co-signed a letter of demand to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy of South Africa, and stand as an applicant in a court case against government’s plans for new coal-fired power. ACA was actively involved in pre-COP26 campaigns (2021), together with the Afrika Vuka movement, as well as in the protest actions against Shell anti-seismic survey activity on the West Coast of South Africa. Doing so, it has developed partnerships with other players such as the Greenpeace Volunteer Group Cape Town, Ahmed Kathrada Youth and Green Connection. While the COVID-19 pandemic made mobilizing more challenging, ACA has noted an increase in the attendance of movements as restrictions ease.
The Advocacy programme focuses on social media engagement, the publication of opinion editorials and open letters, panel discussions, external workshops, and press opportunities. For instance, ACA co-facilitated and contributed in the Youth@SAIIA-led South African Youth Climate Action Plan (SAYCAP), and participated in the pre-COP26 Youth Climate Activists Summit in Italy. Members also brought the youth perspective in a webinar on “Making South Africa’s Climate Change Response Gender-Sensitive”. Importantly as well, ACA has the only youth representative on the South African Presidential Climate Commission to date. The challenges facing this programme were similar to those of the education programme, whereby access to digital spaces and internet connection is challenging for many youth. ACA has addressed this challenge by providing data to participants across the continent.
The partnership with the Embassy has allowed the African Climate Alliance to consolidate its strategy and interventions. It will continue to deliver dynamic, Afrocentric environmental education, action, and advocacy by African youth to realize climate, ecological and social justice.