What makes up a leader?

By Azugbene Solomon.

Leadership is a process of social influence which maximizes the efforts of others toward the achievement of a greater good.

Leadership is all about being passionate about what you do, and having confidence in yourself and your followers whom you have to motivate and inspire.” “Great leaders make the hard choice, and self-sacrifice in order to enhance the lives of others around them.

A leader understands that it is the people they lead that ultimately determines the success or failure of any venture. They surround themselves with great people that they can cultivate into a team of competent, confident individuals who can work well as a team. They then have the ability to guide this team towards a well-defined vision by clearly communicating short and long terms goals, inspiring confidence and trust among colleagues, and influencing common efforts through character rather than by a position of authority. Ultimately, a great leader creates and nurtures other leaders.

leaders have clarity of purpose and are great at articulating their beliefs. I aspire to be the kind of leader that pushes people to be the very best they can be but still make people feel safe because it starts with the heart.”

A leader does not lead by forcing people to follow. Instead, a great leader motivates people. They encourage others to follow them. They also lead by example, which few leaders do today.

Keys that make up a leader are:

1. Empowerment.

Good leaders are characterized by their ability to empower their teams to achieve maximum success. It is important to think through what empowerment means and how best to employ it so your organization can harness its strength.

Empowerment is a means to include the team in decision making, to give them a participatory role which capitalizes on their own expertise and judgment, and that increases their sense of both individual worth and commitment to the organization. Empowerment also demonstrates that you have good listening skills, and that you care about the input of everyone on your team. When you empower your team, you motivate them to “row together”, and you increase the overall success of your mission. Empowering builds confidence in their capacity to execute your collective mission and goals, establishes essential trust in an organization, and creates the secondary level of leadership necessary when you are not present for key decisions so that the organization continues.

Empowerment creates a healthy, positive and ultimately successful organization – one in which there is ownership of the vision and trust in the leadership. If you are listening to your subordinates, and then acting with consideration of their thoughtful inputs, you are empowering them and your organization.

2. Vision.

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion.” -Theodore Hesburgh, President of the University of Notre Dame

“There’s nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can’t clearly articulate why we’re doing what we’re doing.” -James Kouzes and Barry Posner

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” -Jack Welch

Leaders have vision. They share a dream and direction that other people want to share and follow. The leadership vision goes beyond your written organizational mission statement and your vision statement.

The vision of leadership permeates the workplace and is manifested in the actions, beliefs, values, and goals of your organization’s leaders. This vision attracts and affects every employee who is engaged in living this set of actions, beliefs, values, and goals. They want to share your vision.

3. Core Values.

Values are the guiding principles in our lives. Leadership occurs within the context of core values. Leaders guide and facilitate others to make a positive difference in their own lives and to contribute to a larger good. Values inform the application of leadership qualities as the competencies of leadership are activated – learned, developed, and practiced – within the set of core values. By focusing on what people believe and value, and then positively building on this understanding, we have the potential for impact far more wide reaching than if we approached leadership development as a problem-solving activity.

a) Respect

As demonstrated by self respect and respecting others regardless of differences; treating others with dignity, empathy and compassion; and the ability to earn the respect of others.

b) Making a Difference

As demonstrated by personal efforts that lead to making a positive impact on individuals, systems, and/or organizations or positively affecting outcomes.

c) Integrity

As demonstrated by moral courage, ethical strength, and trustworthiness; keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.

d) Authenticity

As demonstrated by consistency, congruency, and transparency in values, beliefs, and actions; integrating values and principles to create a purposeful life and to contribute to the growth of others.

e) Courage

As demonstrated by possessing a strength of self to act with intention on behalf of the common good; taking a stand in the face of adversity; acting boldly in the service of inclusion and justice.

f) Service

As demonstrated by commitment that extends beyond one’s own self interest; personal humility for the sake of a greater cause.

g) Humility

As demonstrated by a sense of humbleness, dignity and an awareness of one’s own limitations; open to perspectives different from one’s own.

h) Wisdom

As demonstrated by a broad understanding of human dynamics and an ability to balance the interests of multiple stakeholders when making decisions; can take a long term perspective in decision-making.

4. Performance.

Performance in leadership is the heart, backbone, and spirit of a good leader. Your performance as a leader is not shaped by trying harder, working longer, or being cleverer, but by consistently acting like the sort of leader you would want to follow.

The ability to influence the leadership skills of your team members in order to meet organizational demands is a complex element of the overall leadership development picture. Leaders are tasked with effectively guiding organizational goal achievement, while considering team member skills necessary to produce the desired output.

A focus on balancing talent development with organizational goal achievement will place the company on a trajectory of achieving performance success. Motivating team members toward goal achievement is no small task. Essentially, leaders should reflect behaviors that inspire and motivate people to change.

Though motivation factors vary across an organization, there are many leadership qualities common to successful leaders. Leadership qualities that influence goal achievement include the ability to create a clear vision, the ability to understand organizational culture, the ability to focus on performance development, and the ability to encourage innovation.

Many of us in leadership or management positions know what we need to do to be better leaders, we just sometimes fail to act. Being a great leader requires constant personal and professional development, regular transparent feedback from the team, self-reflection and taking action on feedback received. Great leaders are rarely satisfied with their performance.

Leadership is a mindset in action. So don’t wait for the title. Leadership isn’t something that anyone can give you—you have to earn it and claim it for yourself.

1. Masonleads.gmu.edu core leadership values by George Mason University.
2. Thebalancecarees.com leadership vision by Susan M. Heathfield.
3. Forbes.com 10 unique perspectives on what makes a great leader by Brent Gleeson.
4. Davidhuntown.com how successful leaders use empowerment to build trust and excellence by Collins Powell.
5. Aboutleaders.com Leaders Influence Team Performance and Goal Achievement by Florida Starks.


By T.guardian.ng (Matthew Ogune)

The Regional Youths Pastor of the RCCG, Odun Emasealu, has attributed the lack of mentorship among Nigerian youths to absence of role models and pathfinders in the country.

Addressing the press, yesterday, in Abuja, ahead of the church’s annual programme tagged: ‘Abuja Shift Emergency, ’ Emasealu regretted that Nigerian youths have lost hope in life, due to depression.

He said the church initiated the programme to guide youths into meaningful future, as well as bridge the gap between past and present generations.

He said: “We all know depression is a product of loss of hope, and what makes someone to lose hope is the realisation that he/she is not making progress in life… Unfortunately, in our country now, we are losing role models and that is the objective of this programme. We intend raising people that can go to the market place and compete…”

Also Speaking, the RCCG Assistant General Overseer, Ezekiel Odeyemi disclosed that the programme would accommodate all Nigerian youths that are ready to key into it.

Ethiopia looks to young technocrats to lead ambitious reform drive

By ft.com (Tom Wilson)

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has broken with tradition in Ethiopia by appointing young technocrats with international experience to important economic jobs as he seeks to turn the country’s tightly controlled, state-led economy into a competitive free market powered by private capital.

The officials, including Eyob Tolina at the finance ministry, Abebe Abebayehu at the investment commission and Mamo Mihretu in the prime minister’s office, are leading the most ambitious aspects of Mr Abiy’s promised reforms, investors said.

Since taking office a year ago, the reformist leader has promised to overhaul the Ethiopian economy and open previously blocked sectors, such as telecoms and energy, to foreign investment.

To succeed, his youthful appointees must push through reforms to Ethiopia’s sprawling bureaucracy and navigate conservative political officials in the ruling coalition, many of whom remain suspicious of relinquishing too much control of the economy after 28 years of state-led growth.

For Mr Eyob, a former private equity executive and now state minister at the ministry of finance, the ruling party has no choice but to evolve. “We had public-led economic growth and it did run its course, it was obvious,” Mr Eyob told the Financial Times in an interview in Addis Ababa.

“If you didn’t make some pragmatic decisions and shift the course, it would have been a full-blown crisis so you needed to avert that.” In 2016 and 2017, thousands of Ethiopians poured on to the streets, many of them frustrated by the lack of employment generated by an economic policy that had favoured infrastructure over job creation.

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At the same time, Ethiopia was facing a fast-approaching debt crunch. Much of the economy’s double-digit growth in the past decade was driven by borrowing — largely from China. Although Ethiopia’s debt was low as a percentage of gross domestic product, compared with regional averages, its ability to service that debt with export revenue had become precarious, the IMF said in December.

In response Mr Abiy halted all non-concessional borrowing. “There was a need to pause, to finish what we already had, not to jump into new projects,” Mr Eyob explained. Having stemmed the bleeding, the focus in the next fiscal year would shift to attracting investment and boosting revenues, he said.

The first step is a privatisation programme, headed by Mr Eyob, which will include the sale of what is likely to be a large minority stake in Ethio Telecom, the state-owned mobile operator. Mooted ever since Mr Abiy took office, Mr Eyob rejected suggestions the telecoms sale was already behind schedule.

The government had undertaken a detailed market study, including researching regulators in 25 countries to understand the best model for Ethiopia, he said. The “fully-fledged process” would start in no more than a month, he said.

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Mr Abebe, commissioner at the Ethiopian investment agency, said the prime minister had commissioned similar studies for the energy, rail, industrial parks and logistics sectors to identify how best to sustain growth, boost export revenues and create jobs.

“[Mr Abiy] is extremely interested to see a strong private sector that can generate jobs for the millions of youths that are currently unemployed,” said Mr Abebe, 38, who worked at the World Bank before Mr Abiy asked him to join the commission. “And I think that is consistent with the whole economic reform agenda.

For so long economic growth has been fuelled by state investment and now the state should cede space to the private sector and play its natural arbiter role as a regulator,” he said. “In a country where almost 70 per cent of the population is youth, it is only fitting that the administration reflects that age group,” he added.

For some Ethiopians, the talk of private enterprise is an abrupt departure from the developmental state envisioned by its architect, former prime minister Meles Zenawi, where the government controlled the economy’s commanding heights.

But other observers say the shift is subtler. Cepheus Capital, an Addis-Ababa based private equity firm, argued that, as it was under Meles, the government would still prioritise growth and was likely to continue to take an interventionist approach on issues related to land, industry and finance.

The objectives for policymakers were expected to remain the same and it was the “tools” and timeframes that were being modified, Cepheus said in a recent report. “We see economic policy shifting its attention in three areas — from public to private activities, from capital to current spending, and from debt to equity,” the report said.

Mr Eyob said those changes were imperative to creating the jobs the Ethiopia population craved. Ethiopia’s population has doubled since 1992 to at least 105m, according to the World Bank, and is expected to reach 190m in 2050, by some estimates.

About 25 per cent of those aged 15 to 29 are already underemployed “I am not worried at all, especially with this reform and the right thinking,” said Mr Eyob. “We have significant assets, and as we open up, and as more private sector investment comes, this country can achieve a major breakthrough.”

Kenyan Youths See Green Future in Collecting Garbage

By Voanews.com (Ruud Elmendorp)

According to the United Nations, uncollected garbage is a growing problem in cities around the globe, especially in areas with fast-rising populations. But there are solutions, as a youth group in Kenya’s capital is demonstrating.

“My name is Isaac Mutisia. I am 35 years old, and I am the co-founder of the Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group.”

We’re in the Mathare slum of Nairobi. Six-story high brick apartment buildings are around us. Ladies are selling groceries, and men are selling plastics.

Isaac Mutisia and his colleagues enter a building and climb the narrow stairs. They come out with a big dustbin full of garbage emitting an obnoxious stench.

FILE – Children stand amid trash in a building earmarked for demolition in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya, May 17, 2016.

Some 200,000 people are believed to live in Mathare, in an area of just 2 square kilometers. The slum is not only congested with people, but also with their garbage.

According to the United Nations, one city dweller produces 1 kilogram of garbage per day. For Mathare, it means that every day 200,000 kilograms of trash finds its way into a public space.

While taking a break from carrying garbage cans, Mutisia says that collecting waste is a dire necessity.

“When you have a lot of people in one area and there is no proper way of handling waste, you find that everyone dumps waste everywhere,” he said.

Mutisia says the waste was piling up on street corners and illegal dumping sites. Doctors warn about the health effects of garbage, especially for children.

Doris Shiundi is a physician in a local clinic. In the next room a nurse is giving a sick baby a checkup.

“When you have a lot of garbage on the street like here in Mathare, most of the times we see patients who come here with diarrhea, sometimes cholera. Others come in with food poisoning because they eat on the street,” she said.

FILE – A student empties a dustbin next to a murky stream near a school in Kenya’s Kibera slums in capital Nairobi, Sept. 21, 2015.

This situation led Mutisia to do something to clean up the garbage, and at the same time meet another challenge.

“We saw the importance of making our community clean and also creating employment among ourselves because there was a challenge of unemployment,” he said.

Mutisia now has 100 youths collecting waste in the area, making money from households that pay to have their trash hauled away.

Once collected, the waste is brought to a legal dumping site.

The youths’ effort has caught the attention of local government officials, like Thomas Arimu

“We encourage the youths to copy what Kaka is doing to the neighboring community so that it becomes healthy,” he said.

Mutisia, meanwhile, is on the way to his next mission, visiting the U.N.-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi to talk about Mathare’s public spaces. His dream is to make the area as clean and green as the United Nations compound in Nairobi.

Kenya: Youth to form groups to benefit from Govt funds and programs

By Capitalfm.co.ke (NJOKI KIHIU)

The government is now calling on youths to form groups and seek government programs and funds saying it is easier because the group acts as security.

Speaking during a press conference on Thursday, the Government Spokesman Col. Rtd. Cyrus Oguna said the government is determined to empower the youth and reduce the rate of unemployment.

“As we continue to develop, we must appreciate that development of any kind does not just happen, it is made to happen. For our development to be sustainable, we must invest in the youth; the greatest national resource,” he said.

“As the country embarks on the path of 56thyear of self-rule, the government wishes to recommit itself to its goal of empowering the youth. Youth empowerment has remained a priority area for the government with the understanding that a country that does not empower its youth has no future.”

Oguna added that the government has consistently rolled out various programs and initiatives to achieve its goal.

He outlined nine programs which he wants the youth to take advantage of including the National Youth Service, Uwezo Fund, Constituency Empowerment Scheme among others.

For the Uwezo Fund which targets to assist the youth on entrepreneurship, Ksh. 5.97b Oguna said has been approved and 65,350 groups have already benefited, out of this, 22,000 are youth groups.

He further urged the young people to stop being selective with jobs adding that the government has already disbursed 5 billion loans to youth groups to invest in agri-business among other projects.

“As a government we acknowledge that challenges in job creation exist. However, our economy has continued to grow both in informal and formal sectors. We therefore urge Kenyans and especially the youth to embrace the culture of hard work and not be selective about jobs. Let this be a new dawn during which we are not only renewing our patriotism to motherland but one which we want to relive the clarion call of ‘Uhuru na Kazi’,” Oguna said.

According to survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in 2018, 7 million Kenyans were unemployed with 1.4 million out of this figure desperately looking for jobs and 70 percent were youths below 35 years of age.

Farming: Youth in Kenya embraces new technology in seed potato production

By Potatopro.com

Despite being a trained accountant and currently pursuing a Bachelor in Commerce, James Gachiri had a desire to become a successful potato farmer.

This was not unusual as he comes from Nyandarua a county that is the leading producer of potatoes in Kenya. As an informed farmer, he set out looking for certified potato seeds which he knew would give him maximum returns. But he was soon disappointed as there was a shortage of certified seeds and almost gave up.

James Gachiri, a 29 years old farmer and Secretary-General of the Nyandarua Youth in Agri-business Forum:

“I looked for certified seeds in all government institutions like Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) and others but I didn’t get. For about five to six months the seeds were not available and that is when I realized there was a gap in the potato value chain that I could fill.”

“I realized that producing certified seed potato might give me more profit than the normal potato farming and I started seeking advice. There was this perception that it was an expensive venture and that is when I approached the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) for advice.”

“These are potato seedlings that are produced through tissue culture then planted to generate tubers and I came across them at KALRO Tigoni Research Centre. I immediately decided to take up the new method of producing seed potato before everybody gets into it. They gave me 250 cuttings when they saw my interest in the new technology.”

“I am propagating Shangi a local variety and I have to be licensed by KEPHIS and KALRO made the connection. They also didn’t charge me for the soil tests they conducted before I planted and they also gave me a lot of advice.”

“Right now, I am waiting to harvest from the 22 bags and I am expecting about 200 bags. The demand is so high as all the seeds have been booked although I am still on the registration process with KEPHIS as a certified seed producer.”

“I want the youth in Nyandarua to be the drivers of agriculture and that is why we agreed to take this to the youth in the whole county.”

“We formed Nyandarua Youth in Agri-business Forum to share information about all the youths engaged in agri-business in Nyandarua in order to motivate others.”

“We are around 20 and last month we held training about greenhouse farming at Ol-jororok Farmers Training Centre. We want to create a pool of experts in all fields like dairy farming, poultry farming and the rest who can then train the interested youth in the county.”

“I urge the youth to get into groups so that they can get support from various quarters. We are currently engaging with the county government of Nyandarua and so far the departments of youth and that of agriculture have responded positively.”

Gachiri says NPCK supported him and through them, he came to learn of another modern method of propagating potatoes called apical root cutting.

He says that he got a lot of support by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) who licenses seed producers after meeting the required conditions to ensure the material produced is disease free.

The youthful farmer says the first 250 cuttings gave him 2 bags of potato tubers each weighing 50 kilograms. He planted the tubers and harvested 22 bags.

He also convinced other youths from his Kariamu Village in Kipipiri to join him in the venture and they formed a group. The group with 12 members so far has also planted 2,150 apical cuttings. He says it was difficult to convince them to invest in the new technology but after they saw the interest my farm had generated, they agreed and from contributions, they leased a farm.

Gachiri urges the youth to get into farming pointing out that there are opportunities in mechanization and new technology to those who don’t want to soil their hands in the farm.

Report: Putting Africa’s Youth to Work

By Francis Cordor

According to World Population Review, Africa is home to more than 1.3 billion people, nearly 41 percent of whom are under the age of 15. The median ages (where half the population is older and half younger) for African countries are consistently in the teens. For example, Liberia’s median age is 17.8 years old, and the world’s youngest country in terms of median age, Niger, has a median age of just 15.4. To put that in perspective, the median age in the United States is 38.1, and the world’s oldest country in terms of median age, Monaco, has a median age of 53.1.

Not only is Africa’s population largely composed of youth (which is generally defined as ages 15 to 24), its youth unemployment rate is extraordinarily high and youth labor participation has been stagnant for years. For example, the overall youth unemployment rate for sub-Saharan Africa is around 12 percent. Tanzania and Zambia both have youth unemployment rates of 38 percent. South Africa is notable for having the highest youth unemployment rate in the world at 52.8 percent according to Spectator Index.

Having a large percentage of teens and young adults unemployed is detrimental to the youth themselves and society as a whole. Consequences include everything from the inability to gain financial independence from their families or get out of poverty, desperation, mental health issues, and drug and alcohol use to crime, social unrest, homelessness, illegal trade, and lower output and loss of human capital.

“Brain drain” and migration are particularly problematic. With brain drain, the most talented seek job opportunities off the continent, causing a shortage of much-needed professionals such as doctors and engineers. As of June 2018, The Guardian put the total migrant crisis death count at more than 34,000 as African migrants attempt to find better opportunities in Europe and beyond. Those who survive the trek may also be vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

Clearly, high youth unemployment is undesirable to individuals and society alike. Africa needs to put its youth to work. Finding work in Africa is challenging in general, but even more so for the young and inexperienced.

NumberTrend, a new job search engine launching this month, aims to change that. NumberTrend offers both online and offline opportunities, helping to match young job seekers with employers in Africa. Free web and mobile apps enable job seekers in Africa and its diaspora to filter job opportunities to match their specific talents and geographic constraints. Anonymous employer reviews provide real-world insights as to the best and worst employers. This transparency has a natural tendency to prompt employers to improve their practices in order to compete and become more attractive. NumberTrend is free to applicants. Employers can start with a free basic plan or upgrade for more features and better visibility. Paid job listings are also available.

Number Trend’s job fairs serve as one-stop events where job seekers can meet and interview with dozens of employers in their communities. Many are slated to be hosted at high schools and universities, allowing employers to foster relationships at a crucial point in students’ lives. Computer training opportunities will also be available on NumberTrend.

Africa’s youth unemployment rate is troublesome for an emerging continent with the world’s youngest population. Companies across Africa are starting to recognize their important role in solving this problem.

Featured photo courtesy of Kyle Taylor

Source TBC

Uganda: 360 youths acquire income-earning skills

In Summary

  • The one-year project funded by the Belgian Development Agency (ENABEL) was developed to implement interventions in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement with both the refugee population and host communities.
  • Through an integrated approach, BRAC implemented the skills development project in which the trainees completed a six-month, non-formal training in trades including bakery, electronics, tailoring, carpentry and hairdressing amongst others.

By Monitor Reporter

On Wednesday February 27, 360 youths graduated after having attained skills they can use to improve their lives and earn incomes.
This was the first cohort of the 2019 Skills Development Project, a project initiated by BRAC Uganda in partnership with the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).
The one-year project funded by the Belgian Development Agency (ENABEL) was developed to implement interventions in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement with both the refugee population and host communities.

Through an integrated approach, BRAC implemented the skills development project in which the trainees completed a six-month, non-formal training in trades including bakery, electronics, tailoring, carpentry and hairdressing amongst others.

The training was conducted by YWCA at their training centres in Kiryandongo. The trainees were also taught business skills, life skills and functional literacy and numeracy. Upon successful completion, each graduate received a start-up kit which had essential tools and inputs for beginning a business in line with their chosen trade, for example sewing machines and grinding machines.

Kiryandongo LCV chairperson, UNHCR Coordinator, BRAC Country Representative, YWCA President and the ENABEL team cut the graduation cake. COURTESY PHOTO
Clementina Deng a 25-year-old refugee, and a successful graduate of the microenterprise part of the project said, “These skills are not handouts; we are carrying them with us for life, even when we return to our homes. We will be better and more productive people. This is something that will last.”

Ismail Kyepu, a local resident in Kiryandongo reiterated Deng’s point as he said, “Through the financial literacy trainings, I have learnt how to handle my money. I know the benefits of saving, and how to budget accordingly.”

Displaced persons may lose more than just their homes, they may lose access to skills, confidence and dreams. This is why, aware of the untapped potential borne by each individual and the role they play in the prosperity of their communities, BRAC decided to target the youth, women and girl’s population consisting of both refugees and host population to help them restart their lives and acquire technical and practical skills.

Given the high unemployment rates in Uganda generally, many youths and women are making their livelihoods in the informal sector which tends to be highly competitive. This intervention looks towards equipping trainees with the knowledge and skills to enhance and develop their entrepreneurial mind-set and create awareness about entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to paid employment.

Source Daily Monitor

Head of African youth network: Listen to young people on ecology

By Fredrick Nzwili

The head of an African youth network urged the world’s religions to embrace the voices of young people, as the leaders explore ways to tackle the current global ecological crisis.

Allen Ottaro, founder and executive director of the Catholic Youth Network for Environment Sustainability for Africa, said young people were aware of the current realities of climate change and were ready to join in the search for solutions.

“Youth have said they will do their homework, but you (adults) also need to do yours,” Ottaro said during a side event during the U.N. Environment Nairobi Convention. “While we are asking for space, we’re also prepared to take responsibilities. The best way to take the responsibilities is to get involved in those decision-making processes that in the ultimately affect our future.”

Ottaro was one of several delegates from faith and faith-related organizations who attended the U.N. convention in Nairobi. More than 5,000 delegates from around the world gathered March 11-15 to discuss ways of accelerating environmental protection.

“We can no longer delay taking action to protect people and this planet,” Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program, said at the opening session March 11.

French President Emmanuel Macron echoed a similar call at the meeting, noting that young people were pushing for urgent action.

“Our youths are saying: You are not moving fast enough. They are right to get impatient, because we are too late,” Macron told the meeting March 14.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged the presence of faith leaders at the meeting, saying they could provide useful lessons in environmental protections.

“Faiths for Earth” was a side event at the assembly.

The Catholic Youth Network for Environment Sustainability for Africa joined Brahma Kumaris, a worldwide Hindu spiritual movement, to host a session during the side event, where Ottaro spoke.

He said faiths should not fear young people’s critical voices even when the matter is sensitive and controversial.

“Young people are not a time bomb. They are a key asset to tap to care for our common home. We need to tap into this asset, rather than see it as a time bomb. They are not the future but the now of God,” he said. He also urged young people to raise their voices so that they can be heard by their leaders.

Catholic youths from Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda and South Africa launched the youth network in 2012 after being inspired by St. John Paul II’s 1990 World Day of Peace message, which called for increasing ecological awareness and finding fitting expressions in concrete programs and initiatives.

The network aims to unite young Catholics in Africa in the response to climate change and environmental degradation, through creating awareness, training, networking groups and supporting parishes in the work around the environment.

“We are looking at how we can use Catholic social teaching to form young people to discover how they are called to care for creation as Catholics. We are also looking at formation on ecological issues to understand what is happening to our common home (through) climate change,” Ottaro told the Catholic News Service in an interview, referring to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’.” In networking and advocacy, he explained, the organization attempts to find interfaith collaborations with like-minded interfaith groups, for example, hosting the event with Brahma Kumaris.

“We work with non-Catholics, as long as they respect the Catholic traditions and Catholic social teachings,” he said. “We need to give voice and visibility to that core identity we have, and this is unique perspective we can bring to this space and this kind of forum as people of faith.”

He cited progress in mobilizing young people but said their capacity could be strengthened.

“People are starting to listen, but we do not have the luxury time,” he said.

Franciscan Father Hermann Borg, director of Mother Earth Network, an organization that deals with environmental issues, said that while the U.N., some governments and private institutions have developed policies that care for the environment, there are still many holes.

“Deforestation is already there, and the demand for clean water. The pollution (in the) air and water is increasing,” Father Borg told Catholic News Service. “It’s all human made. It is all made because of our comforts. We have seriously damaged our common world. That mean we have to come in and plan the next activities.”

“We have to change lifestyles. We have to change our behaviors, otherwise the globe will collapse,” added the priest.

But Father Borg said he was concerned that climate change has never been a priority from top of the church hierarchy down to the parishes.

“The initiative the Catholic Church can have tremendous impact, but the care for the environment has been neglected for a number of generations,” said the priest.

Source CNS