Challenges of Scaling Up Youth-Led Climate Adaptation in Africa: The Role of Innovation

In a world grappling with the unprecedented challenges posed by climate change, the spotlight has firmly shifted towards the invaluable contributions of youth-led initiatives in addressing climate adaptation in Africa. This paradigm shift is vividly embodied in the YouthADAPT program, a collaborative effort between Global Center for Adaptation (GCA), African Development Bank (ADB), and Climate Investment Funds (CIF), with AfriLabs playing a pivotal role as the implementation partner.


This intervention seeks to empower and accelerate youth-led adaptation enterprises hand picked through an open competition by providing them with funding and targeted business development support such as hands on mentoring and coaching, tailored training and peer to peer learning opportunities all run under the acceleration component of the project.  As part of the acceleration component of the program,, AfriLabs facilitated a webinar on  “Challenges of Scaling Up Youth-Led Climate Adaptation in Africa”  which took place on September 29th 2023. 


The webinar served as a convergence point for a diverse panel of experts representing both the public and private sectors, alongside previous winners of YouthADAPT Challenge cohorts. Together, they discussed the depth of the crucial issues surrounding youth-driven climate adaptation innovations across the African continent. Discussions highlighted the vital role that Africa’s youth play in combating climate change and sheds light on the significant challenges they encounter, particularly in accessing essential financial resources. Additionally, it explored potential solutions and highlighted the pressing urgency of amplifying youth-led climate adaptation efforts in Africa.


The objectives of the webinar included identifying hindrances to innovations in climate change adaptation, highlighting the role of public-private partnerships in youth led adaptation innovation, exploring how governments can encourage youth involvement in climate change adaptation innovation and deliberation on mobilising private sector financing options. 


Dr Linda Ogallo, the moderator who also serves as AfriLabs’ in-house Climate Adaptation Expert and Climate Information Services Expert at ICPAC kicked off the webinar session by summarising some of the outcomes from the African Climate Summit held in September in Kenya. Dr Ogallo gave an overview of the commitment of African Heads of states to promoting youth led actions aimed at engendering climate change adaptation across the continent. She further emphasised the importance of exploring governments’ participation in encouraging youth involvement in climate change adaptation innovation and mobilising public and private sector funding to push climate resilience in Africa. 


Representatives from the Global Center on Adaptation and Climate Investment Funds, the funders of the Youth Adaptation Solutions Challenge, gave the introductory remarks following Dr Ogallos introduction. 


Further, Serah Nderitu, Senior Program Officer at GCA highlighted some of the achievements of the AAAP which the Youth Adaptation Solutions Challenge is a pillar of in driving climate adaptation innovation and creating opportunities for young Africans. She spoke about the importance of financing “Global finance significantly affects youth-led enterprises and only 16% of global financing is supporting adaptation projects”. She also stated “Regulations need to be in place to incentivize private sector investments into investing not only in adaptation, but also into youth- led adaptation enterprises. This can take many shapes, including providing tax incentives, reducing bureaucratic red tape”.


In addition, Dr Xianfu Lu, Senior Strategy and Outreach Advisor on Adaptation and Climate Resilience at CIF Secretariat also spoke about the pivotal role that the youth can play in mobilising climate action and the importance of aligning with them.  She highlighted that the CIF has been “supporting youth groups and young climate leaders through capacity building,  and prioritising the needs of young people and engaging young people in decisions about investments and the infrastructure in our programs”.


Keynote speaker Yacouba Ouedraogo opined that Africa is arguably the most vulnerable continent to climate change, facing a multitude of challenges from extreme weather events to food insecurity. 


Panel speakers Isaac Asomani;Investment Manager at Wangara Green Ventures, Hillary Korir; Senior Economist, The National Treasury and Planning: Climate Finance & Green Economy Unit in Kenya,  Irene Boghdadi; Head of MSMEs at Chemonics Egypt and Baliqees Saludeen; GCA Youth Advisory Panel all had converging voices on how Africa faces an array of formidable challenges, ranging from extreme weather events to food insecurity. Against this backdrop, the participation of youth in climate adaptation takes on a paramount significance. Their energy, innovative spirit, and deep-rooted engagement within their communities offer invaluable assets that can drive substantial change in the battle against climate change. They also reiterated the importance of diversified funding sources; public and private sector involvement and financing. 


Key Takeaways 

The immense potential of African youth needs to be harnessed in order to combat climate change and enhance climate resilience in Africa. A number of key outcomes came out of discussions held. 


  • Youth-Driven Innovation: African youth are leading the charge in pioneering innovative climate adaptation strategies. They bring fresh perspectives, technical prowess, and solutions rooted in local communities, all of which are pivotal in constructing sustainable adaptation strategies. Equally critical is the provision of guidance and the facilitation of connections with potential funding partners to foster the scaling of these initiatives.
  • Enhanced Public and Private Sector Funding: Funding for Climate Adaptation projects needs to be enhanced, more research into climate adaptation initiatives for funding is essential in building climate resilience in Africa.
  • Community Engagement: Youth-led initiatives invariably exhibit a profound connection to their local communities, ensuring that their adaptation strategies remain deeply rooted and tailored to the unique needs of each region. This community engagement stands as a fundamental pillar underpinning the success of such projects.
  • Youth as Agents of Change: It is imperative to recognize that young people are not merely passive beneficiaries but proactive agents of change. Their involvement in climate adaptation engenders a sense of ownership and responsibility, ultimately contributing to the enduring success of these efforts.



Despite their zeal and potential, youth-led climate adaptation initiatives face an array of substantial challenges. The discussions during the webinar highlighted some of these including: 


  • Limited Funding: A pervasive challenge faced by youth-led initiatives is their struggle to secure adequate financial resources. Many young leaders grapple with the complexities of obtaining funding for their projects, hampering the scalability and effectiveness of these initiatives.


  • Capacity Building: Youth often lack the necessary skills and knowledge required to develop and implement successful climate adaptation projects. Capacity-building programs emerge as a critical solution, empowering young leaders with the essential expertise and know-how.


  • Policy and Institutional Barriers: The maze of bureaucratic hurdles, the absence of supportive policies, and the insufficient recognition of youth-led efforts pose significant barriers that hinder their impact. Governments and international organisations bear the responsibility of establishing a conducive environment for youth involvement.
  • Mentorship Deficiency: A critical missing element in many youth-led initiatives is mentorship and guidance from experienced professionals. Mentorship programs can offer invaluable insights, foster valuable connections, and facilitate the scaling of these projects.


  • Communication and Advocacy: Many youth-led initiatives struggle to attain visibility and influence key stakeholders. Effective communication and advocacy efforts emerge as indispensable tools in propelling the success of these projects.


Proposed Solutions/Recommendations

Participants in the webinar proposed a range of solutions and recommendations to address the challenges faced by youth-led climate adaptation initiatives:

  • Increased Funding: Governments, international organisations, and private sector entities must allocate a more substantial share of resources to bolster youth-led projects. The establishment of dedicated funding mechanisms is a key strategy to tackle the financial constraints that often impede young leaders.


  • Capacity-Building Programs: The development and implementation of training programs are imperative. These programs should equip young individuals with the requisite skills and knowledge necessary to plan, implement, and manage climate adaptation initiatives. Furthermore, these programs must be designed to be accessible and adaptable to local contexts.


  • Policy Reforms: Advocacy for policy changes that recognize and champion youth-led climate adaptation efforts is essential. These changes encompass the simplification of access to permits, licences, and support for community-based projects.


  • Mentorship Networks: Encouraging experienced professionals to volunteer as mentors for young leaders is a transformative step. Mentorship programs are vehicles for the dissemination of guidance, experience sharing, and the cultivation of valuable networks.


  • Effective Communication and Advocacy: The support of youth-led initiatives in their communication and advocacy endeavours is imperative. This support encompasses the formation of partnerships with media organisations, the provision of training in public speaking and advocacy, and the facilitation of the development of outreach strategies.


The “Challenges of Scaling Up Youth-Led Climate Adaptation in Africa” webinar emerged as a crucible for critical discussions and knowledge-sharing amongst a multitude of stakeholders. This webinar underscored the necessity for youth-led organisations to unify and drive the climate adaptation movement. Africa’s youth, armed with the requisite support and resources, possess the potential to be potent agents of change in the battle against climate adversity.


The urgency of tackling climate change cannot be overstated. The insights gleaned from this webinar emphasise the paramount significance of amplifying youth-led climate adaptation initiatives and ensuring that they receive the recognition, support, and opportunities they deserve.