Youth Entrepreneurship for Africa’s Transformation

By (Collins Kimaro)

Youth entrepreneurship can help people realise their potential and drive Africa’s transformation, writes Collins Kimaro, a Correspondent from Tanzania.

“What Africa becomes tomorrow depends on how it harnesses the potential of young people today,” said Eric Shitindi, Permanent Secretary of the United Republic of Tanzania, as he officially opened a technical workshop on youth entrepreneurship, organised in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Labour Organisation, and UNCTAD.

Held in Dar es Salaam, the initiative aims to support Commonwealth member states in East Africa to develop national youth entrepreneurship frameworks and polices. Delegations from Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia were present.

For these countries and across the rest of Africa, progress lies with their young people, who dominate the population. This poses both an opportunity and challenge, as young people account for 60% of those unemployed. Furthermore, those who are able to find jobs are mostly under-employed in unstable and poorly paid work.

Why Youth Entrepreneurship?

Globally, entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic growth and prosperity. The majority of developed economies are driven by Small and Medium Enterprises, often led by young entrepreneurs. Correspondingly, a study of 105 youth employment interventions conducted by the Solutions for Youth Employment Initiative (S4YE) found those that encouraged entrepreneurship generated the largest gains in income.

Another advantage of youth entrepreneurship is that it is an option available to many young people. Formal employment often immediately disqualifies many young people due to its requirements for higher education qualifications and extensive experience. On the other hand, entrepreneurship gives these young people a fighting chance. During the workshop, Charles Ocici from Enterprise Uganda proclaimed that “entrepreneurship is an equaliser; no matter your background, education or family endowment.”

Looking at the capacity of the formal sector, one could claim that entrepreneurship is not only a viable option but a necessity for Africa’s sustainable development. The World Bank estimates that only one-quarter of African youth will be able to find a wage job. Therefore, entrepreneurship is a key avenue to help young people to employ themselves and others.

Supporting Youth Entrepreneurship

To do so, Fulvia Farinelli from UNCTAD argues that we must “view entrepreneurship as a systemic issue and follow a holistic approach.” National policies and strategies are key parts of this in order to create a conducive environment to allow young entrepreneurs to flourish. Sushil Ram from the Commonwealth Secretariat emphasised that “currently there are a large number of initiatives on youth entrepreneurship that are not linked. We need an integrated and coherent policy approach for more effective outcomes.” This workshop laid the foundations for this and benefited from the support of the Tanzanian government, UNCTAD, and the ILO..

There is an African proverb that says, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Accordingly, the development of these national strategies must be inclusive of all relevant stakeholders. This workshop leveraged the collective impact approach and convened policy-makers, experts and young entrepreneurs themselves. Including young people in the discussion was key to Alvin Laurence, CEO of the Seychelles National Youth Council, who asserted that “we as young people do not want politicians to make decisions for us. We want to make decisions with them.”

The state of youth entrepreneurship in the region is set to be transformed following the workshop as delegations return to work on their national policies and strategies for youth entrepreneurship. It is such collaborative and systematic efforts that will allow entrepreneurship to help young people realise their potential and drive Africa’s transformation.


4 ways Africa can prepare its youth for the digital economy

By (Simbarashe Moyo)

More than ever, it is vital for Africa to prepare her youth for the digital economy and the future of work. The World Development Report 2019 notes that the labour market of the future will require new skills including digital fluency, creative thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, empathy and adaptability. With these new demands in place, it would be remiss of Africa not to strengthen her biggest asset: the youth who make up around 60% of the continent’s population.

Appropriate action will help the continent to harness this promising demographic dividend. Furthermore, a proactive stance is likely to reduce the risk of massive labour substitution and endemic unemployment, while enabling the continent to leverage the new entrepreneurial and economic opportunities associated with the digital economy.

Although countries like Rwanda and Kenya are already making considerable progress in preparing their youth for the digital economy and the future of work, more African countries are yet to take meaningful action to address the yawning skills-gap and digital infrastructure inadequacies bedevilling the continent. Here are four strategies African nations should use to prepare their youth for the digital economy and the future of work:

1. Creating responsive education systems

This entails reviewing and updating the education curricula at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Equipping youth with technical skills like digital fluency will empower them to assume responsibilities like coding and virtual designing, which will be in demand in the digital economy. Other African nations might draw lessons from Kenya’s Secondary School Practical Open-source Curriculum (SPOC) which is training high school students to code. In addition, soft skills like creativity and adaptability will enable young people to thrive in a fast-paced digital economy in which employment will likely be more about brief online tasks than long-term onsite jobs.

2. Formulating policies for the digital economy

Given the uncertainties of the technological revolution and the consequent susceptibility of the digital economy to cyber-crime and monopolies, African nations must formulate regulatory policies that keep stakeholders in check. Such policies will help to create an environment in which young people’s digital enterprises can grow, and in which appropriate education and employment opportunities will be accessible to all young people. Policies that promote life-long education in organisations are also critical in helping our youth easily adapt to volatile environments. In addition, formulating digital policies is vital for African nations to guard against situations where young people are the perpetrators or victims of data theft and invasion of privacy, among other ethical issues plaguing the digital space. African nations should, however, be careful not to stifle creativity, innovation and warranted freedoms in this process of regulating the digital economy.

3. Expanding digital infrastructure

Developing nationwide digital infrastructure, especially fibre optic networks, and improving access to electricity and digital devices may help to improve connectivity within African nations. This will enable more young people, including those in rural areas, to access high-speed internet as they acquire and utilise new skills – thereby alleviating inequalities and optimising shared prosperity in a digital economy. The Icyerekezo broadband satellite launched by Rwanda in February this year is a good example of expanding digital infrastructure – and which can be emulated by other African nations. Expanding digital infrastructure is particularly important because, compared to other continents, Africa has the poorest internet connectivity.

4. Optimising public-private cooperation

Collaboration between governments, multinational development banks and the private sector will create room for innovative financial models which promote upskilling among Africa’s youth. This will also reduce inequalities caused by duplication of efforts, especially when establishing digital infrastructure in African nations. Public-private cooperation will therefore enable more young Africans to access training programmes and digital infrastructure.

If African nations do adopt the above-outlined strategies, they will enhance the chances of Africa’s youth to prosper in the digital economy and the future of work. With a well-prepared young population, it will be possible for Africa to leapfrog into prosperity and make progress towards achieving the African Union’s Agenda 2063 programme, which aims to transform Africa into a global powerhouse. Implementing the proposed strategies will, however, require genuine political will and unwavering commitment on the part of African governments and their citizens.

How can young people secure a better future for Africa?

By Gerald Chirinda

With 70% of Africa’s population under the age of 30, we as a continent are presented with a great opportunity and, possibly, a great challenge. Young Africans today are taking actions that not only have an immediate impact, but will also determine the future of the continent for decades to come.

Never has there been such weighty responsibility on the shoulders of young people. Never has there been the influence in the hands of young people like the influence they carry now. But for Africa to reap the dividends she has longed for, it is up to our generation to make sure that influence is channelled correctly and directed towards relevant issues that affect not only ourselves, but generations after us. This can only be achieved if we come together as young people and begin to address the challenges before us as a continent.

The role of African youth is drastically changing, but so are some of the challenges we face, such as employability and entrepreneurship opportunities. The strength of any society is within the strength and resolve of its youth – what investment are young people making in our continent today?

In the past 6 months, I’ve listened to the argument stating that we have spent more time focused on what’s happening in other continents, like the US presidency, and less on local issues. I have had the privilege of being invited to speak at different platforms across Africa and have met and engaged with fellow young people who know less about my country Zimbabwe but more of what’s happening in the US and in Europe, and these discussions brought us to a conclusion that as a continent we have not done a good job in telling our own stories, both good and bad, affecting our people. (Could you tell us a bit about your background here – in what capacity are you listening to these arguments?) There are important matters such as the thousands of lives of fellow Africans lost at sea when trying to leave the continent for greener pastures, youth unemployment, gross mismanagement of government institutions and resources, xenophobia among our own people and the general restlessness and frustrations of young African people.

There’s no problem with us engaging in discourse at a global level, but I feel it is important for us to exert more of our time and energy on issues that affect our continent and our people. I believe if we, as youth, don’t take ownership and responsibility for our problems and challenges, we run the risk of allowing other nations, organizations and institutions to do so on their terms. My question to fellow young Africans is are we creating a future in which generations after us can be confident?

A lot has been said about Africa and its rise in the past few years. For this to be true, I believe it requires its people to also rise and drive the agenda, not wait for instruction or direction from other nations. If this doesn’t happen, Africa may still rise, but only for those with an agenda for the continent. This then begs me the question of fellow young Africans: what is our agenda, and what are we doing to shape that agenda?

With regard to employability, according to the African Development Bank report, by 2050 Africa will be home to 38 of the 40 youngest countries in the world, with median populations under 25 years of age. This will result in an estimated 10-12 million new people joining the labour force each year. These statistics clearly indicate that a considerable amount of investment must go into human development to unlock a demographic dividend. What innovative policies and programmes do we, as young people, want to make sure that this happens and that this growth will not result in a demographic time bomb for Africa?

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us and the rate at which technology is advancing it is critical that we have a sufficiently educated and skilled workforce to be able to drive Africa in this direction. There is currently a mismatch between industry demands and the education curriculum. Education institutions need to update their curricula to align with the direction in which the world and Africa are going. If we ignore this, our young people will have irrelevant qualifications that the continent will be unable to benefit from.

It is worrying to note the rate at which young educated Africans are leaving to seek more opportunities abroad. The grass is not always greener on the other side, however, as leaders of other nations are also facing domestic challenges and therefore not prioritizing immigrants. If our educational institutions can include entrepreneurship as a mandatory subject at all levels of education, more young people will be better equipped to create jobs and address the issue of high unemployment.

I am a strong advocate for local solutions to local challenges, but for this to happen, we need to encourage and cultivate innovation among our youth. It is encouraging to note that there are pockets of this already taking place across the continent, where we can see uptake and use of locally-designed technology. More of this needs to happen across the board, covering the different sectors of our economies, as Africa still lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to introducing disruptive technology. Human development is about creating opportunities and building a person’s ability to innovate and be entrepreneurial. Significant investment needs to go towards this.

With the growth of the continent, it only makes sense for us to industrialize in order to be less reliant on importing products for consumption from outside the continent. According to the African Economic Outlook 2017 report, Africa’s growing population is expected to generate a rise in consumer spending from $680 billion in 2008 to $2.2 trillion in 2030. This increased spending has the potential to lead to greater prosperity.

The growth in Africa’s population presents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurial innovations and ideas to be implemented. It does, however, require strong political will to enable the right environment to be created to encourage these ideas and for entrepreneurs to be supported in their different stages of growth, from start-up, early stage and growth stage right through to becoming large corporations.

As you may notice, this article asks more questions than it provides solutions. The best way for us to answer these is if we begin to engage in conversations and dialogue amongst ourselves as young Africans and see what solutions we can come up with for a better Africa. We spend time complaining about poor leadership in our countries, but my final question is: are we ourselves prepared to succeed the generation that precedes us?

Let us intentionally create a culture that encourages the building and shaping of the Africa that we want. The change we want begins with us coming together and developing our own culture and value system for thinking, planning, implementation, accountability, integrity and collaboration. It is up to us as young Africans to shape the narrative of our continent. Let us begin to do so, in every sphere of society.

Uganda: Beyond The Crowds And Youth Euphoria, Bobi Wine Needs A Program – Katikkiro


The Katikkiro of Buganda, Charles Peter Mayiga has said opposition politician, Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) must do more than pulling crowds and the euphoria that he sparks among the young people, if he is to be considered to lead Uganda.

The Katikkiro said that as much as Bobi Wine, 37, appeals to the young generation, who are the majority population, he needs to come up with a well laid-out program on what he can do for Uganda.

Mayiga was speaking Wednesday while appearing on Straight Talk Africa, a talk show on Voice of America which is hosted by Shaka Ssali.

Asked what his views are about Bobi Wine, the Katikkiro said: “Well, Bobi Wine is a darling of young people and you must realize that the current regime has been around for 33 years”.

“That’s a long time and Bobi Wine is an artiste, and to communicate to people through music is very easy”.

The Katikkiro was then asked to comment on whether he agrees with some people who say Bobi Wine’s future is way ahead of him. When talk regarding Bobi Wine being a potential candidate for Presidency, first emerged a section within the ruling NRM and the public dismissed him as not being fit to contest.

“I don’t know. It all depends on how he wraps up his program and presents it to the people. The French President is very young, there is a Chancellor in Austria who just resigned, he’s 32. He’s younger than Kyagulanyi. President Obama became President at 47. President Kennedy was 43,” Katikkiro said.

“What matters is whether he (Bobi Wine) has readied himself for the job. Beyond the euphoria of the youths. If he wants to be President, then he must have a program beyond the crowds,” he added.

On whether Bobi Wine can count on the support of Mengo, the Katikkiro said Buganda kingdom supports whoever is aligned with the kingdom’s interests.

“Buganda kingdom does not support or oppose anyone. The Buganda kingdom has its own interests. And we wrap them in five key pillars”

He said that any Presidential candidate seeking the support of Mengo “should come over and tell us they are going to support us” on the five issues.

“You respect our heritage and King, we want the federal system of government, we want to protect our land and borders, we want programs for social economic development, and we want the unity of the people, ” he said in outlining the key pillars commonly known as “ensonga ssemasonga ettano”.

“Whoever supports them, then people should vote him,” Mayiga said.

There have been claims pointing to a likelihood of Bobi Wine who is a Muganda, being backed by the establishment in Mengo.

In February this year, in a CNN interview, Bobi Wine for the first time publicly said he was considering running against President Museveni in the 2021 general elections.

The singer launched his political bid in 2017 when he ran for a Parliamentary seat in a by-election in Kyadondo East constituency near the capital, Kampala.

He won the election in a landslide victory after polling 25,659 votes (77%) out of 32,999 votes cast while his closest rival, Sitenda Sebalu of the ruling NRM party polled 4,556.

Since then, the Afro Pop singer has mounted pressure on President Yoweri Museveni’s government, rallying his followers, many of them youths to use their numbers and power change leadership.

He would later coin his ‘People Power’ slogan under which he challenges Ugandans to put an end to a status quo he says only works for a few.

He was among the legislators that challenged the controversial amendments of the Constitution which repealed the Presidential age limit in 2017.

Opinion: Fasihah Hasan: Angry youth will save SA

By (Simnikiwe Hlashaneni)

Millenials have a more urgent and immediate purpose to change what is wrong in South Africa.

‌Young radicalism is the future of democratic social justice, if the new wave of young political activists becoming lawmakers is anything to go by.

And for “born-free” politician Fasihah Hassan, who was acclaimed for her role during the nationwide youth revolt for free tertiary education, an angry and impatient youth is the best thing for South Africa’s democracy.

Born to United Democratic Front (UDF) activist parents at the dawn of democracy in 1994, Hassan says she and her peers have a different and necessary perspective on the ills that face the country. It’s the more urgent and immediate sense of purpose that drove the #FeesMustFall movement.

“The world is not a fair place and it’s our job to make it more fair. But once you understand that the world is unfair you understand that all that anger you have is important, but it needs to be channelled,” she says.

‌Speaking just days before her inauguration as an ANC member of the Gauteng legislature, Hassan says making the transition from student activist to politician, to policy maker has not been an easy road to travel.

“It has been a long and difficult journey which people don’t see. People see the front of the house. They don’t see what’s going on behind the scenes back in the kitchen, so to speak. But I seriously believe the kind of student activism we were doing before and during #FeesMustFall has played a huge role in shaping how I think and deal with the issues.”

As an ANC Youth League branch leader herself, Hassan is not afraid to criticise the organisation that moulded her, saying it was necessary for change in the ANC to be driven from within.

“The difficulty with the older generation is that they see the issues, but they would rather only bring it up internally. Whereas with us, as much as we have a sense of belonging in the ANC, it doesn’t prevent me from criticising where I have seen wrong.”

And with the layers and layers of internal structures, age groups and the gender factor, a young woman might not have risen so quickly into leadership in the ANC 10 years ago, but the ANC elders are beginning to hear young people, Hassan says. She admits that some of the youth disillusionment at the ANC evidenced in the last two elections could be attributed to the weakening of the ANCYL over the past decade.

However, she says channels for young people to be heard within the mother body have improved and have put young women in more meaningful platforms, such as the Young Women’s Desk.

Climate Change: The time for talking is over: a call to action on climate change and planetary health

“Leaders need to realise that it is in their own interests, and those of their countries, to have a healthy population and a society with institutions and infrastructure that is sufficiently resilient in the face of climate change.”

By (Mary Robinson)

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you here today at this impressive Summit. I am honoured to have the opportunity to talk about two topics that are close to my heart and deeply interlinked: climate change and planetary health.

Both issues constitute existential threats if they are not addressed rigorously and urgently; but equally, they open up the possibility of new opportunities for future growth and prosperity if a systematic and inclusive policy approach is developed by states, businesses and ordinary citizens.

It might sound ironic to say this at the beginning of a keynote speech, but I firmly believe that the time for talking is over.

We need to act – now, and fast.

As I am sure you all know, last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report on the consequences of global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius and above.

This report makes it abundantly clear that we only have 12 years to take the necessary, radical action to cut emissions, end the consumption and subsidising of fossil fuels, and invest in sustainable, renewable energy to avert a rise in global temperatures above 1.5 degrees that would have catastrophic consequences for global health.

As my friend and fellow Elder Gro Brundtland said, the IPCC report is not a wake-up call, it is a ticking time-bomb.

The World Health Organization already predicts that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

The direct costs to health from climate change, excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation, is estimated to be between US$2–4 billion per year by 2030.

Climate change threatens the huge amount of progress made on health and development in the past half century; it threatens to reverse the gains made through the Millennium Development Goals; and it threatens to undermine any efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – health related or otherwise.

The IPCC has also said it expects climate change to lead to increases in ill health in many regions, particularly those furthest away from the health sustainable development goal.

Examples include greater likelihood of injury, disease, and death due to more intense heat waves and fires; increased likelihood of under-nutrition resulting from diminished food production in poor regions; risks from lost work capacity and reduced labour productivity in vulnerable populations; and increased risks from food- and water-borne diseases.

What the latest report by the IPCC makes crystal clear is that the threats posed by a rise in temperatures above 1.5 degrees apply to every country in the world regardless of income level, and demand a concerted, joined-up global approach.

For example: I don’t need to remind anyone in Qatar about the health risks of extreme heat – but had I been giving this lecture a year ago in northern Sweden, at this point the audience would probably have smiled and said “that’s all very well, but it’s not really a problem for us up here!”

If I were giving it there today though, I can assure you they would be nodding in sober agreement. This past summer we saw the almost unbelievable spectacle of wildfires in Sweden’s Arctic Circle, as well as many other parts of Europe.

These heatwaves represent the new normal. They are more extreme, last longer and reach further because of climate change.

And they are not just isolated incidents. The long-term trend shows more and more people are being exposed to heatwaves as the earth’s climate changes.

In 2016, over 150 million people were exposed to life-threatening heatwave conditions, and the threat is particularly acute for the young, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor.

Meeting this challenge will require the political will to commit substantial financial investment to climate-resilient health infrastructure.

It means embedding climate change mitigation, reaction and adaptation into long-term health planning, and ensuring environmental and economic policies are centred around health needs.

Hospitals and other health institutions need to consider this in practical, tangible terms: how do their buildings and operations contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, are their consumption models efficient and sustainable, how do they dispose of medical waste, and do they have a holistic approach that includes the needs of the wider community?

On a policy level, for the past three years The Elders have been championing Universal Health Coverage across the globe as the best way to meet the health SDG and provide accessible, affordable healthcare to all.

We are convinced that providing universal health coverage is one of the most important drivers of development, and a crucial means of tackling the health impacts of climate change.

And there is a crucial linkage between ending fossil fuel subsidies, improving health outcomes and building political consensus behind climate-resilient policies.

Subsidies to fossil fuel industries are clearly unacceptable and unsustainable, and The Elders have written on several occasions to the leaders of G20 and G7 countries to hold them to their word and demand a comprehensive abolition of these measures.

But consumer subsidies, for example on fuel products, are popular with the general population, particularly in developing countries, and leaders face considerable political challenges when seeking to reduce or end them.

However, countries such as Iran and Indonesia have shown that it is possible to reduce these subsidies when some of the saved public resources are channelled directly to increased spending on healthcare.

The public sees the immediate benefit as well as the longer-term advantages of a healthier environment, and leaders should then enjoy a broader mandate to pursue sustainable environmental, social and health policies.

But our responses cannot be driven solely by political expediency or enlightened self-interest.

I believe it is essential that we look at both climate change and healthcare through the prism of human rights, to which every person on Earth is entitled.

In this hall I see many talented medical professionals, representing world-class hospitals and research institutes, with an almost unparalleled capacity for technological innovation.

Yet given this abundance of global resources, how can it possibly be acceptable that hundreds of millions of our global citizens still cannot access or afford the healthcare they need for themselves and their families – including in some of the richest countries on the planet, including the United States?

Innovation in technology, surgical techniques and health systems has brought huge benefits to healthcare in recent decades and transformed our understanding of how the human body and mind works.

But innovation alone will not achieve the systemic changes needed to extend these benefits to the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our societies whose health needs are greatest.

Ultimately, this comes down to a question of political will and priorities. As with climate change, leaders need to realise that it is in their own interests, and those of their countries, to have a healthy population and a society with institutions and infrastructure that is sufficiently resilient in the face of climate change.

In both cases, the state remains the indispensable actor – and must therefore bear the chief responsibility for funding healthcare and climate policies.

These responsibilities cannot be abdicated or outsourced to the private sector.

You only have to look at the United States to see the damaging consequences of a market-driven health system where the profit motive trumps patients’ healthcare needs, and where vested interests from private hospitals to the pharmaceutical industry spend billions of dollars to thwart even modest efforts to extend public insurance and healthcare provision.

Equally, although it is commendable that many businesses, including in the energy sector, are now acknowledging the realities of climate change and the need to take action, “corporate social responsibility” can only ever be a complement to rigorous state regulation, underpinned by internationally-agreed commitments.

In our globalised world, this can only be done by multilateral cooperation.

The Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Sustainable Development Goals, are two landmark multilateral achievements that serve as a rebuke to the cynics or so-called realpolitik advocates who argue that nations will never act out of altruism.

Both the Paris agreement and the SDGs are a declaration of solidarity not only with today’s global citizens but future generations.

They offer a roadmap for genuine, transformative progress – but only if leaders are serious about their implementation, and show sustained ambition and commitment to the multilateral process.

The notion that the globalised nature of our economic and political order can in some way be halted or reversed is, frankly, illiterate.

Leaders who pursue a unilateral path, who disdain cooperation and who renege on previously-agreed commitments, need to go back to their history books.

I have in fact just come from Paris, where President Macron organised a major Peace Forum to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

This historical anniversary is a stark reminder of the catastrophe that can ensue when multilateral cooperation breaks down and leaders believe their interests can be best served by bellicose actions.

The war in Europe devastated a whole generation. It literally poisoned the land; some of the soil where the trenches lay is still contaminated by degraded munitions and poison gas.

Moreover, the devastating impact of the conflict on public health and medical institutions and infrastructure meant that when an epidemic of Spanish influenza broke out in the winter of 1918, just as the guns were falling silent, it spread like wildfire and ended up killing as many people as the war itself.

So all of us here – doctors, health experts, politicians and former politicians – have a responsibility to put pressure on leaders to take climate and health seriously, to see them as human rights issues that are inextricably intertwined, and to make these leaders understand that if they do not act in concert with each other, they are damning us all to failure, if not annihilation

As some of you will know, for many years I have advocated the need for a “climate justice” approach to tackling the challenges of global warming.

Climate justice is a transformative concept – compelling a shift from a discourse on greenhouse gases and melting icecaps into a civil rights movement with the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts at its heart.

Climate justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable people and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its impacts equitably and fairly.

I believe we also need to think about “health justice”, to ensure that ordinary people are always at the heart of health policy and that their needs are paramount above the profit motives of industry or the short-term calculations of politicians.

It is clearly a grave health injustice when poor women and their newborn babies are detained in hospitals because their families can’t afford their medical bills. But this is the reality for thousands of people in health systems dominated by private financing and weak governance.

Both climate and health policies need to understand the specific needs of vulnerable and marginalised groups who have been too often overlooked, including women, girls, adolescents, people with mental health issues, indigenous peoples, sexual minorities and nomadic communities.

They also need to understand the intersectionality of these diverse groups and needs. Injustice cannot be overcome if each issue is treated in its own individual silo, or without appreciating the complex interconnections between the different drivers of ill-health, poverty, prejudice and discrimination.

I have endeavoured to spend my life in the service of those marginalised or made vulnerable by discrimination because of gender, race or poverty.

I take as my guide Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – that essential text whose 70th anniversary we are marking this year — which begins “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

It is important to note, however, that the Declaration, signed in 1948, and the two International Human Rights Covenants, adopted in 1966, do not include any reference to a right to a healthy environment.

When I had the honour to serve as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1997 to 2002, climate change was not on the radar of human rights institutions. It was through my later work on human rights in Africa that I came to understand that any advances in development were threatened by the impacts of climate change.

Last year, together with my fellow Elder and sister Graça Machel, I visited Tanzaniato encourage that country’s progress towards Universal Health Coverage.

We met rural women who still only had scant access to medical services and products despite the dedicated efforts of local doctors. If real and enduring progress is to be made towards UHC in Tanzania, the needs of these women needs to be at the top of the agenda for every official in the Ministry of Health – and, indeed, the Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s office.

Governments and companies need legitimacy and trust to be able to operate effectively in society. This applies to the Middle East as much as rural Africa, and indeed to the whole world. If these actors do not prioritise action on climate and health, they risk forfeiting this legitimacy and trust far sooner than any of us might anticipate.

But delivering effective policies on climate and health is not just a matter of sound investment or shrewd self-interest. It is a matter of human rights and justice. The economies and companies that have contributed most to global warming and unequal health outcomes have a responsibility to lead on finding solutions.

In surveying the complex array of global challenges, the devastating consequences of inaction and the often mediocre response by public leadership, it is easy to fall into despondency.

In the words of the great Irish poet WB Yeats, it can feel at times like “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

But despair is not an option! We cannot afford it, and our children and grandchildren will not forgive us if we do not step up and do what is right.

I remain inspired and invigorated by words of two great men with whom I have had the honour to work with as members of The Elders: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late Kofi Annan.

Archbishop Tutu – or Arch, as he always told us to call him – defines himself as a “prisoner of hope”, a phrase which resonates deeply with me and inspires me to remain determined to fight for change.

And Kofi Annan always called himself a “stubborn optimist”. His life-long commitment to justice and equality did not permit any other way of looking at the world. Kofi knew that a better world was possible, and worked to the very end to make it happen.

As we go forward today, let us all take heart from their legacies and work together for a world where everyone enjoys the right to health, a thriving environment and a peaceful planet to bequeath to subsequent generations.

Thank you.