Africa is not voiceless. Let us tell our own climate stories

Racism is finally making headlines, but this scourge is not just on American streets. Racism is literally in every sector of our life, including climate reporting. This is not less true about climate reporting in Africa. 

Without ending racism, we won’t be able to achieve climate justice. Those who face the impacts of climate change are the least heard. How shall we be able to get justice for the people whose voices keep being buried in the ground? There is no climate justice without racial justice. Environmental justice begins with amplifying the most affected communities. Climate justice can only be justice if it is global enough and it includes everyone.

This became painfully clear to me in January 2020. I had been invited to take part as a youth delegate in the Davos Summit Arctic basecamp. There, I happened to be part of a press conference with Greta Thunberg, Luisa Neubauer, Isabelle Axelsson, and Loukina Tilla. I clearly remember telling the media to stop being biased when reporting about climate change and climate activism. I asked them to be more inclusive and to ensure that every voice is listened to. Unfortunately, they didn’t listen to mine.

After the press conference I came across an article where I was cropped out of a photo. I had not been introduced as one of the climate activists at the press conference. To me, this was an erasure of my voice and the voices of the activists that have for so long tried to tell their stories but all in vain. We are not a helpless continent. We have stories to tell and solutions to give.

Not voiceless

Think about Africa. The helpless continent. The continent that can’t birth solutions. But is it, really? Why is Africa’s image portrayed that way? Why do the 54 countries in this continent (often pictured as a homogeneous land) appear so defenceless? As it turns out, Africa isn’t helpless. But its power is not included in the narrative, and that hurts our ability to use it.

African changemakers have powerful voices, but no one amplifies them. The people driving solutions and change in the African countries are not given their fair chance to tell the stories of their communities and the actions that they are taking towards a meaningful change. This does not help us, the African people, implementing our solutions to the climate crisis. Our voices are robbed. Our stories are robbed. Our solutions remain buried.

And they should be heard. Africa is already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change. If we do not talk about the crisis in Africa and fail to amplify the activists who are speaking up and demanding climate action, the people will continue facing environmental injustices and many will continue to lose their lives.

The people who make decisions that affect our future need to understand that the marginalized communities of this world are rising and demanding justice. But this is not possible if the media continues to erase the voices of the people demanding change.

We don’t need Western media to tell our stories, we can do that ourselves. We don’t need Western media to give us a voice. We already have voices. What we need is better collaboration between African and Western media. We need them to work together to help us drive change in the most affected communities. We need more representation of African journalists in Western media. We need people who understand what is happening on the ground to work hand in hand with western media to tell these stories.

Work together

Western media has a role to play, but they can’t ignore our voices anymore. Instead, they can choose to work hand in hand with African journalists. If we all work, together, we will be able to amplify what’s happening at the most affected communities and help drive change and climate action.

Do you want to tell African stories? That’s great! You can get in touch with African journalists and work with them to tell what goes on in African communities. We need more inclusiveness and more efforts to drive change and action while involving everyone.

If these solutions are ignored, we will continue to see many voices erased in marginalized communities and we will not be able to get environmental justice. Remember that environmental justice starts with you amplifying the most affected communities. Climate justice is only justice if it is global enough.

Africa can tell its own story. Africa can amplify its voices. Africa can drive solutions to the climate crisis. We can do this. All we need is to work together. Together and united, we will be able to drive change in our communities.


Header image: CIAT/Georgina Smith (CC BY-NC 2.0)