• Lukmon Akintola | Member of ACMI Youth Forum
  • Careen Joel Mwakitalu | Member of ACMI Youth Forum
  • Rose Kobusinge | Member of ACMI Youth Forum
  • Marc Tilley | Member of ACMI Youth Forum
  • Gislaine Kengne | Member of ACMI Youth Forum
  • Sophie Nabukenya | Member of ACMI Youth Forum
  • James Thuch Madhier | Member of ACMI Youth Forum
  • Pavert Ngeh | Member of ACMI Youth Forum


In our complex globalized world, the push and pull factors for mobility have expanded, with more people on the move than ever. As illustrated in the flagship Africa Climate Mobility Initiative (ACMI) report, African Shifts, slow and sudden-onset climate events are posing severe multiple and diverse  threats to vulnerable people in frontline communities, forcing many to be on the move. Worryingly, increasing frequency and intensity of climate crisis is significantly widening the gap between safe and perilous journeys, particularly for vulnerable groups in Sub-Saharan Africa, including youth, children, and women.

Recent years have seen climate and environmental hazards grow at an alarming rate with previously exceptional weather events now becoming seasonal occurrences. Research by the Global Centre of Adaptation found that more than 54 million people were affected by disasters linked to storms, droughts, wildfires, floods, and landslides in Africa over a 20 month period between 2021 and 2022. While recognizing the impact of climate displacement, it is important to stress that youth, women and girls are disproportionately affected by extreme weather events. According to UNDP 2022,women and girls are 14 times more likely to die of disasters than their male counterparts. Subsequently, climate hazards such as floods, droughts, and earthquakes, are gender neutral - but their impacts are not.

African Youth at the Crossroads of Climate Change and Mobility

The phrase “youth” comprises a broad demographic which includes an intersection of  infants, children, adolescents and young adults; all of whom have varying and  diverse  needs, rights and agency.  Majority of youth risk being impacted by climate change and environmental degradation, but the degree of this impact, and possible responses, varies drastically across each age group. In the context of climate mobility, adolescents and young adults are most likely to find themselves on the move as they begin to develop personal autonomy and start to inherit breadwinning responsibilities in their families and communities, particularly in rural areas where traditional agricultural and pastoral livelihoods are most threatened.

Africa  has the largest youth  population in the world, with more than 450 million young people within the ages of 15 – 35 and this population is expected to significantly increase, accounting for 75% of the continent’s total population and 42% of global youth population by 2030. With the increasing reality, young people are likely to continue facing the devastating impacts of climate change on human mobility in the continent.

Despite their numeric advantage, young people are among the most vulnerable groups affected by the devastating impacts of climate change in Africa. Extreme weather events – such as drought, tropical cyclones, heatwave, flooding – are disproportionately affecting young people and posing multiple threats to their survival. With the increasing frequency and intensity of climate events, young people are displaced, while some voluntarily migrate temporarily or permanently. Slow and sudden-onset climate events are not only putting young people in vulnerable situations, but they are also affecting their lives and livelihoods. For instance, the increasing drought and its consequent food and water scarcity affected 36.1million people in the Horn of Africa and killed 8.9million livestock. Earlier in 2023, Malawi lost over USD$94million in its productive sector to Cyclone Freddy, causing many young people to lose their sources of livelihoods in the Southern African country. In Nigeria,  2.4 million people were displaced  due to flooding events in the country, putting many young people in vulnerable situations. Increasingly, climate-induced challenges like increasing poverty, loss of jobs , food insecurity, water scarcity, poor healthcare, lack of quality education, increasing crime rates, among others, cannot be ignored. Subsequently, more than 2.6 million people were affected by climate-related disasters in Africa as of 2021, with young people, especially young women, bearing the major brunt of the disasters and forcing them to migrate in search of better livelihoods and protection from the devastating impacts of climate change. Evidently, the Africa Shift report hints that climate migrants in Africa may increase from 1.5% to 5% of the continent’s total population by 2050. This also aligns with the projection of World Bank’s Groundswell report, which highlights that 85.7million people will migrate due to climate events in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2050.

Despite the vulnerability of young persons to climate events, this demography remains an important stakeholder in driving sustainable mitigation and adaptive solutions to climate change and its impact on human mobility in Africa. With their lived experiences, young persons are able to advance informed policy advocacy, while also holding policy makers accountable. Additionally, young persons are well-positioned to drive green initiatives and advance context-specific sustainable solutions. To achieve this, however, it is imperative to heavily invest in climate literacy for African youth. Climate literacy will not only expose young people to the reality of climate change, but it will also help them identify their roles in promoting climate justice and sustainable solutions in Africa.

Exploring climate literacy as a tool for sustainable Africa

Climate literacy serves as a solution to climate-induced mobility challenges in Africa. It empowers communities with knowledge to understand climate change's causes, consequences, and mitigation strategies, as well as enables informed decisions and adaptive actions to reduce displacement. Climate literacy fosters resilience within communities, reducing the need for abrupt migration as a coping strategy. For vulnerable African youth facing climate-induced migration, climate literacy equips them with skills to develop sustainable solutions in their communities, making them climate action leaders and advocates for environmental protection and sustainable development. Additionally, it creates opportunities for youth in green jobs and innovative industries, contributing to economic growth and environmental sustainability. Ultimately, climate literacy drives Africa towards a more resilient and sustainable future, with young people leading the charge against climate change challenges.

The Potential of Youth-Driven Climate Literacy

Climate literacy refers to the information, skills, and awareness required to appreciate the complexities of climate change and its ramifications. It entails comprehending the science of climate change, its environmental and socioeconomic consequences, and adaptation and mitigation techniques. Climate literacy also includes critical thinking and decision-making abilities, which fosters a greater understanding of environmental stewardship. Gender-responsive climate literacy ensures that both women and men, across diverse backgrounds, have a clear understanding of climate change, its impacts, and adaptation strategies. This inclusive approach acknowledges that different genders may have distinct knowledge gaps and priorities related to climate change.

To effectively promote climate literacy, climate education must be integrated into formal curricula at all levels of the African education system by using  formal and non-formal approaches. Students can gain a holistic grasp of climate change's multidimensional character by combining climate-related issues throughout multiple curricula. It is therefore important to develop curricula and educational materials that integrate gender-responsive and culturally sensitive approaches, while also developing climate literacy through informal education. This integration can help young students understand the importance of gendered sustainability approaches and create a sense of responsibility for their surroundings.

Climate literacy can be a driving force behind African youth-led climate campaigns. Young people are encouraged to mobilize and advocate for climate change when they are equipped with knowledge and awareness. These movements provide avenue for African youth to raise their voices on the climate vulnerabilities, demand responsibility from authorities, and impact long-term policy decisions at the local, national, regional and international levels.

African youth benefit from climate literacy in terms of creativity and innovation. Young brains can become pioneers in finding youth-focused and gender specific eco-friendly solutions to  local and global challenges,  advancing sustainable practices and green technologies on the continent.. Africa can unleash the potential of its youth in promoting sustainable economic growth by encouraging and supporting green entrepreneurship.

Indigenous knowledge systems in Africa have supported people for millennia, providing unique insights on climate adaptation and resilience. Integrating gendered traditional practices with current climate literacy can result in an inclusive, holistic and culturally relevant strategy to climate change. This method also assures that the continent's rich and diverse cultural heritage is preserved while encouraging sustainable development. Tailoring educational materials to cultural contexts helps ensure that climate information is accessible and relevant to diverse populations.

Climate literacy is key to changing African  young people from crisis responders to proactive change agents. Africa can nurture a generation of environmentally conscious leaders by including youth-focused and gender-sensitive climate education into the official curriculum, fostering climate awareness through informal venues, empowering youth-led climate movements, connecting with indigenous wisdom, boosting green innovation and by educating young people how to cope with displacement caused by environmental and climate related impacts, as well as how to use migration as an adaptation strategy to diversify their livelihoods, access resources, and build resilience. It is worth noting that climate literacy for young people in Africa makes them a   strong force in driving  a sustainable and resilient future for the continent and beyond.

This article is part of the IOM Blog Series: Youth Voices on Migration, Environment and Climate Change


About the authors:

Lukman photoLukmon Akintola is a researcher and a policy advisor working at the intersection of climate change, human security, migration, and inclusive governance. He currently serves as a Knowledge Advisor at the Global Center for Climate Mobility, where he is supporting the Africa Climate Mobility Initiative (ACMI) Deep Dive project in West Africa. He is also serving as the climate mobility lead for the African Non-State Actors of the GFMD/GCM. Lukmon previously worked as the program lead at the Migration Youth and Children Platform (MYCP) and has consulted for several international organisations, including UNICEF, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, European Partnership for Democracy, Save the Children, among others.

Careen picCareen Joel Mwakitalu is a Tanzanian Climate Innovator and Advocate as well as a Climate Mobility Fellow with the Global Centre for Climate Mobility. Careen is a Co-founder of a mobile eco hub named No Taka Tanzania that works to spearhead sustainable data through geospatial technology for migrant and refugee communities in Tanzania. The hub strategizes policy reforms and strengthen adaptive capacity for people affected by climate induced mobility through building resilience in these communities. Earlier this year, she was awarded the Youth Innovation and Leadership Award by the Migration Youth and Children Platform (MYCP) and IOM during the GFMD summit.

 Rose bio pic 1Rose Kobusinge is a dedicated advocate on Migration, Environment, and Climate Change (MECC) issues from Uganda, holds a master’s degree in environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford. Rose is currently pursuing a doctorate in ‘Sustainable Energy Futures in Displacement Settings’ at Coventry University aiming to ensure displaced people are not left behind in the just energy transition. She is also working directly with migrants, refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, focusing on contributing solutions and amplifying their voices for inclusive policies and climate and development solutions. Rose is also a youth leader and mobiliser: who initiated the YOUNGO Climate and Migration working group and serves as an IOM-AU Youth Migration, Environment, and Climate Change ambassador. She actively promotes climate (mobility) education and meaningful inclusion of migrant youth and women's voices in decision-making processes and initiatives.

Marc photo bioMarc Tilley - Serving as a Youth Leader of the GCCM Africa Climate Mobility Initiative Youth Forum, Marc Tilley also serves as Advisor and Researcher for the Refugee, Asylum & Migration Policy (RAMP) Project, advising parliamentarians worldwide on migration issues. He has served as an Association of the International Committee of the Red Cross working on migration, displacement, and child protection; policy advisor to the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Migration and Refugees of the Council of Europe, and Advisor for the Human Rights at Sea. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from the Aberystwyth University and a Master’s Degree in Humanitarian Action from the University of Malta / Universite Aix-Marseille.

Gislaine pic bio​​Gislaine Kegne is a Cameroonian and a MasterCard Foundation scholar at Ashesi University, where she is pursuing a BSc in Mechanical Engineering. She is herself an internally displaced person (IDP) and has experienced the effects of climate change firsthand. Today, Gislaine is a passionate climate advocate and youth mobilizer. Her advocacy is centered on recycling and proper disposal of plastics through the education of young people and community engagement. She is also a volunteer at NESDA-CA, Open Dreams, and Ashesi's D-Lab. Gislaine hopes to use her engineering skills to create automated recycling systems in her home country.

Sophie acmi picSophie Nabukenya is a  high-spirited girls’ rights advocate, a poet, and an artivist,with a strong passion for  addressing  gender inequalities  within the context of climate  change . From 2016 to date, Sophie  has spearheaded two successful global campaigns. Ie. the “Girls get Equal” Campaign and the “Let's change the story”  Campaign. Both campaigns combined have reached over 10 million people on social and mainstream media. Recently, Sophie added a gender and climate migration lense to to the Uganda Health National Action Plan on Climate Change,2024  and a communique by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) ministers to be submitted to the African Union. Sophie holds a  Postgraduate Diploma in International Gender Studies from the University of Iceland. Sophie is the Country Consortium Coordinator of She Leads Uganda, coordinated by Terre des Hommes Netherlands. 

James acmi pic bioJames Thuch Madhier is the Founder of the Rainmaker Enterprise, a non-profit social
enterprise that transforms lives in conflict-affected and climate-change-affected
regions through solar-powered water infrastructure to build healthy, inclusive,
peaceful, and sustainable communities. He is also a Climate Mobility Fellow with the
Global Centre for Climate Mobility. When James was only 9 years old, he
witnessed the famine in Bhar El Gazal region where over 70,000 people died. After witnessing this, James promised himself to find durable solutions that restore dignity to those affected by conflict and climate change. He started the Rainmaker Enterprise to implement climate-adaptive solutions that restore dignity to those displaced by climate change shocks and those at risk of being displaced.

Acmi bio pic 3Pavert Ngeh is a committed Climate Change advocate from Cameroon and has relentlessly promoted the use of biogas technology in Cameroon as a means of fighting climate change, promoting adaptation and resilience in the local communities. Pavert has dedicated himself as youth leader to raising awareness on Climate Mobility across the Sahel region of Africa as he leads the UNICEF youth group “Young Voices from the Sahel” active in 10 different countries in the Sahel region. Pavert actively promotes the use of renewable energies within local communities for sustainable development as well as the voices of youth, women and the local communities for inclusion into decision making processes and policies governing climate change. 

SDG 13 - Climate Action
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals