Skip to navigationSkip to content
Environmental activists have their picture taken before the Climate strike protest calling for action on climate change, in Nairobi, Kenya, September 20, 2019.
REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Striking in Nairobi.
RAISING THE ALARM

Africa’s cities face the harshest outcomes of climate change and its young people know it

By Abdi Latif Dahir

Millions of people across the world, many of them children who skipped school, are today taking part in protests calling for action against climate change. From Australia to America, the “climate strike” day is meant to urge governments and world leaders to end the age of fossils and up their climate efforts.

The protests are inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who sailed across the Atlantic in an emission-free sailboat last month, to attend the landmark Sept. 23 United Nations climate summit in New York.

Across Africa, both the young and the old left their classrooms and workplaces to join the protests. From Nairobi to Cape Town, Kampala to Lagos, demonstrators called on leaders to mitigate the effects of climate change. Africa has contributed little to climate change but is disproportionately vulnerable to its impacts.

Extreme droughts, flooding, and famine coupled with fast-growing populations are already straining key natural resources in the continent. Due to climate-related causes, for instance, South Africa’s second-largest city Cape Town almost ran out of water in 2018. Climate change also threatens the Nile’s critical water supply, an issue that could lead to a major geopolitical crisis in the coming years. Major African metropolises, especially coastal cities like Lagos and Dar es Salaam, also remain vulnerable to extreme weather patterns.

Eco-activists says the climate crisis will widen inequality and increase or set off  major conflicts if African—and global—leaders don’t act now. In Kenya, activists said the government should also seek a 100% renewable energy path instead of optioning to build a coal plant.

“Humanity faces three threats to our existence; climate chaos, inequalities, and violence,” Amnesty International Kenya executive director Irungu Houghton said in a statement today. The rights group gave its Ambassador of Conscience Award to young environmental defenders in Kenya, with Houghton noting they were “proud to act in solidarity” with youngsters to protect the planet’s future.

“There can be no human rights, dignity or safety on a dead planet.”

An environmental activist dressed in traditional wear in Nairobi, Kenya.
REUTERS/Baz Ratner
An environmental activist dressed in traditional wear in Nairobi, Kenya.
Young activists march as part of the Global Climate Strike of the movement Fridays for Future, in Cape Town, South Africa September 20, 2019.
REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
Marching for the future in Cape Town
Environmental activists march carrying signs as they take part in the Climate strike protest calling for action on climate change, in Nairobi, Kenya, September 20, 2019.
REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Skipping work and school in Nairobi.
An environmental activist holds a sign as she takes part in the Climate strike protest calling for action on climate change, in Nairobi, Kenya, September 20, 2019.
REUTERS/Baz Ratner
From Nairobi: “Learn to change or to swim.”
Young activists march as part of the Global Climate Strike of the movement Fridays for Future, in Cape Town, South Africa September 20, 2019.
REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
Young eco-warriors in Cape Town, South Africa
Environmental groups call for global climate strike action during a rally in Abuja, Nigeria September 20, 2019.
REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
Environmental groups in Abuja, Nigeria.
Environmental activists march as they take part in the Climate strike protest calling for action on climate change, in Nairobi, Kenya, September 20, 2019
REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi
Demanding 100% renewable energy in Nairobi.
Young activists march as part of the Global Climate Strike of the movement Fridays for Future, in Cape Town
REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
“Lets move climate change to history” slogan in Cape Town.

Sign up to the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief here for news and analysis on African business, tech and innovation in your inbox