Unlocking the Green Jobs Opportunity for African Youth in the Green Transition

This article is co-authored by Makena Ireri, Director, Demand, Jobs and Livelihoods at Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), and Naomi Wagura, Director, Solution Led Countries, Africa (GEAPP) and was originally published by Africa.com.

The recently concluded Africa Climate Summit (ACS) 2023 highlighted Africa’s potential to play a pivotal role in global efforts to combat climate change. The summit resulted in several outcomes that could support the creation of green jobs for African youth, such as the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Action for Africa which reaffirmed Africa’s commitment to implement the Paris Agreement and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

These outcomes are encouraging signs of Africa’s leadership and ambition on climate change. However, they need to be followed by concrete actions and implementation at all levels. The time is now for Africa to unlock the green jobs opportunity for African youth in the green growth for the continent and lead green transition for the rest of the world. With its abundant renewable energy resources, vast lands, critical natural resources and a young and entrepreneurial workforce, Africa stands at the crossroads of a green revolution with the potential to benefit both the continent and the world.

Global decarbonization holds immense promise for Africa, addressing critical challenges while also fostering economic growth and prosperity.  Key facets of this opportunity include clean and Universal Energy Access. In 2021 Sub-Saharan Africa had 567 million people without access to electricity. However, the continent boasts vast untapped renewable energy potential that could not only accelerate the green growth but also ensure clean and universal energy access for its citizens. Green jobs in the renewable energy sector can help bridge this gap while contributing to emissions reduction.

There is also a growing demand globally for green products and services. However, industries in the global north may not have the capacity or resources to meet this demand. Africa’s emerging manufacturing sector presents a unique opportunity to lead the greening of industries and become a global supplier of sustainable products.

The global green transition relies heavily on minerals which are crucial for the deployment of clean technology. Africa possesses vast reserves of key minerals such as cobalt, lithium, manganese and graphite (essential for batteries), hydrogen production and transmission networks. These resources can play a vital role in global efforts to decarbonize.

A surge in investment has the potential to create millions of green jobs across the continent. Globally, green jobs have been growing at an impressive rate of 8% annually over the past five years, with projections of 112 million new jobs in selected green sectors by 2030. Africa, with its youthful population, could generate an estimated 75 million green jobs by 2050. However, realizing this potential requires a concerted effort from various stakeholders, like Dalberg, and CLASP, within the ecosystem.

To harness the green jobs market potential, it is crucial to develop a clear data-driven view of the green jobs landscape in Africa. This includes identifying priority sectors, skills required, current gaps in the labor market and ongoing interventions. This comprehensive understanding will inform investment decisions and facilitate coordinated efforts.

With the expected increase in green job opportunities, it is vital to provide youth with information and support to make informed decisions about their education and training. Collaboration between the private sector and educational institutions is crucial for aligning courses with industry needs.

Gender equity is a crucial component of the green growth. Social norms and barriers continue to limit women’s access to quality education and green job opportunities. Efforts to shift societal norms and create equal opportunities for girls and women are imperative.

The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), as part of its commitment to create green jobs, has been delivering a number of initiatives including the “Women for Green Jobs” program, a collaboration with Shortlist to create green jobs for women across six countries in Africa. It has also joined Youth Energy Summit (YES!) as a foundational partner to support the creation of a platform and network for early career professionals, entrepreneurs, students and educators with the goal of boosting the skills, connections and business readiness of a new generation of African energy leaders.

GEAPP is just one organization within a diverse range of stakeholders. To achieve impact at scale, we are calling for collaboration from players across the ecosystem under a set of key priorities that includes preparing the current and future workforce, in particular women. for green jobs.  By developing a consolidated view of opportunities and interventions, we can help to facilitate the coordination of efforts and sharing of research and learning.

It is time to test potential interventions and partnerships and develop a blueprint for unlocking the green jobs opportunity, with a particular focus on women. For example, Dalberg, together with CLASP, has developed a pilot concept to promote skills development and enable youth to access jobs in the solar-powered irrigation systems sector. The concepts can be used to learn, adapt and scale investment and partnerships.

Unlocking the green jobs opportunity for African youth is not just about environmental sustainability but also economic growth and social equity. By harnessing Africa’s potential as a leader in green growth, we can create a prosperous and sustainable future for the continent and the world. The time to act is now.  Collaboration among governments, businesses, NGOs and educational institutions is the key to unlocking this transformative potential.

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