Siyabonga Mokoena is a 21-year-old radio host working with the Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF). He is one of half a dozen young African reporters who attended the COP27 climate summit in Egypt to produce a series of podcasts on climate change to be broadcast on 15 radio stations around the continent.
Before attending the conference, Mr. Mokoena was hard at work recording the stories of people whose lives have been impacted by the open pit coal mines and power plants in his backyard in eMalahleni, in northeastern South Africa.
He says, “We want[ed] to bring our own stories to COP and then circulate what we learn[ed] from COP back to our own communities.”
At COP27, climate groups pushed for a greater focus on financial support for African countries already suffering the impacts of climate change. Reporters like Mr. Mokoena attended in the hope of documenting these efforts.
Rebecca Mbaama is another youth reporter with CRF. She says: “We have a lot of conferences, but what are the results? At the end of the day, we are the ones suffering, [but] through radio we can listen and understand how to find solutions.”
Since 2006, Children’s Radio Foundation has trained over 5,000 youth reporters in 10 African countries and reached an estimated nine million listeners through programs covering a range of topics, including public health, education, and employment.
When the organization sent young reporters from Zambia, DRC, and South Africa to attend COP27 sessions and interview advocates and experts, it hoped to eventually create a three-episode podcast in English and French.
Dhashen Moodley is a producer at CRF who accompanied the reporters to Egypt. He says, “Young people not only deserve a seat at the table, they have also earned the right to be heard. Our youth reporters are telling us they [young people] want to be involved in the decisions, to hold leaders accountable and to report back to their audiences at home.”
Mr. Mokoena, the reporter from South Africa, was excited that “just transition”—the protection of workers’ rights and livelihoods as economies shift to sustainable production—was on the COP agenda, because the issue directly impacts his family.
He explains: “My dad has been a coal miner for the past 21 years, as long as I have been alive, and now I am interviewing him about the sustainability of his work as the breadwinner of our family.”
At the COP26 climate summit last year, wealthy nations committed $8.5 billion to help South Africa cut its emissions and accelerate a shift away from coal, which the country relies on for the bulk of its electricity.
So, in advance of COP27, Mr. Mokoena interviewed miners whose jobs may be on the line as the country moves towards cleaner energy. He says, “My dad is really worried.”
But, he adds, his mother and many of his community’s members are suffering the health impacts of living so close to coal plants, including asthma, eczema, and sinus problems.
A South African high court declared in March 2022 that poor air quality caused by coal-fired power stations is responsible for more than 10,000 premature deaths in the country every year, and violates people’s rights to health and well-being.
Mr. Mokoena adds, “I’m looking forward to telling our stories at COP and to finding solutions that other governments are moving towards in their own just transitions.”
This year, young climate change activists also pushed to be heard at COP27, where 60 newly-trained youth from 27 countries acted as fully fledged “climate negotiators.”
Joyce Tshivuadi is a 19-year-old reporter from Kinshasa. She says, “We are directly impacted by climate change and have our whole lives ahead of us—we are the voice of this continent.”
In late September 2022, a group of young activists launched the African Climate Caravans project, which travelled to 28 African countries mobilizing 170 local organizations and thousands of supporters to demand climate justice before and during COP27.
Ms. Mbaama explains: “Way back, climate change wasn’t really an issue we spoke about. But now, we have seen the droughts, floods, deforestation, and felt the high temperatures. Now we know the only way to save humanity is to talk about it, so that action can be taken.”
Episodes from the COP27 podcast are not yet released. However, you can listen to the episodes created following COP26 here: https://childrensradiofoundation.org/stories/?fwp_topics=climate-change
For more information about the Climate Caravan, go to: https://www.oxfam.org/en/take-action/campaigns/africa-climate-caravans#:~:text=Africa%20Climate%20Caravans,the%20rest%20of%20the%20world
This story is adapted from an article written by Kim Harrisberg and published by Reuters, titled “Young reporters bring the voices of COP27 to Africa’s radios.” To read the full story, go to: https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/young-reporters-bring-voices-cop27-africas-radios-2022-11-10/
Photo: A young reporter smiles at the camera with a recorder in her hand while members of her community gather behind her in Kinshasa, The Democratic Republic of Congo, June 28, 2016. Credit: Rowan Pybus/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation.