Thursday 15 June 2023

Youth Activism in Africa: Igniting Change for a Better Future

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

By Atinuke Adeosun

For far too long, Africa has suffered from a lack of development, inequality, and poverty… but the narrative is changing. A new generation of passionate and resilient young activists is emerging, determined to shape the future of the continent. They are the voices that demand to be heard, the innovators who present solutions, and the change-makers who refuse to accept empty promises. They are igniting a transformational flame that Africa desperately needs.

In a world weary of the status quo, the clarion call to action rang loud and clear in 2021. With impassioned speeches at a pre-26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) summit, climate activists such as Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg shook the foundations of complacency. Nakate's call for genuine action and Thunberg's condemnation of empty words rang true throughout the year. As we approach 2024, the need for action is more pressing than ever, especially in Africa. Fortunately, the continent has a swarm of young activists leading the charge, and their tenacity will undoubtedly shape a brighter future.

Tanzanian children's rights activist, Emmanuel Cosmas Msoka, set out on a mission to combat COVID-19 in his community. He ingeniously created a pedal-powered hand-washing machine in 2020 and distributed over 400 handwashing stations throughout northern Tanzania. Msoka believes in the power of innovation and encourages young people to become generational leaders by devising creative solutions to pressing issues.

Stacy Owino, a Kenyan student and women's rights activist has developed an app to combat female genital mutilation (FGM) in her country. She co-created this ground-breaking tool at the age of 18 to put an end to a practice that violates the rights of countless girls. Owino, who has been recognized at the Young Activists Summit and serves on the European Commission's Youth Sounding Board, emphasizes the importance of African youth taking control of their narrative and shaping their own future.

During Sudan's revolution, Alaa Salah, a Sudanese human rights activist, became a symbol of freedom. Her commanding presence atop a white car captivated the world's attention. Sudanese women, whose voices are frequently silenced, were inspired by Salah's bravery. Despite Sudan's turbulent path to democracy, Salah's influence continues to empower women, encouraging them to persevere in their fight for a better future.

Trevor Oahile, a 24-year-old student from Botswana, utilizes his platform through a radio show called 'Don't Get It Twisted' to educate young people about sexual and reproductive health. He aims to break the stigmas surrounding reproductive health and empower young boys and men to be better informed. Oahile collaborates with UNFPA, running training programs and advocating for social accountability and youth empowerment throughout Botswana.

Nkosilathi Nyathi, a Zimbabwean climate activist, has dedicated nine years to fighting climate change. From a young age, Nyathi documented the impact of the climate crisis on his surroundings and secured grants to build a biogas digester at his primary school. As a founding member of the Zimbabwean chapter of Fridays for Future, he continues to create impactful videos and speaks passionately about the urgency of addressing climate change.

Zolani Metu, a South African psychotherapist and mental health advocate, strives to decolonize mental health services. Through his consultancy company, Decolonial Mental Health, he promotes African-focused mental health management and wellness.  Metu's commitment to making mental health services accessible and inclusive, particularly for Black and queer individuals, has garnered recognition and accolades.

The #EndSARS movement emerged in Nigeria in October 2020 as a youth-led protest against police brutality, particularly targeting the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The movement gained significant momentum and widespread attention, both nationally and internationally, through the power of social media and online activism.  The Feminist Coalition (FemCo) is a Nigerian feminist collective that played a crucial role in organizing and supporting the #EndSARS movement. They provided resources, including legal aid, medical assistance, and funds to protesters and amplified their voices through strategic online campaigns. FemCo's involvement exemplifies the growing influence of youth activism in Africa, showcasing how young people are leveraging digital platforms to advocate for social change and challenge systemic injustice. Their dedication and determination have not only brought attention to police brutality but have also sparked conversations about governance, accountability, and the role of young people in shaping the future of the continent.


Africa stands at a crossroads, and the determination of these young activists embodies the hope for a better future. Their commitment to the United Nations' Global Goals, eradicating poverty, demanding equity, and defending the planet is an inspiration to us all. To support and empower these young change-makers, we must join their movement and take action. Together, we can help reshape Africa and tackle the world's most pressing issues.

The flame of transformation is burning bright, and Africa's youth are the ones holding the torch. Let us stand beside them, amplifying their voices and igniting change for a brighter, more equitable future.

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