Last week we saw leaders from all over the world in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, which opened with a global scandal. One that not only annoyed people all over the world, but also presented one of the biggest problems in the global efforts to deal with the climate crisis our world is facing: The painful disregard for Africa, which is the most likely to lead the struggle, and move the world toward a cleaner, greener future.
The media debacle began when 5 young women, all environmental activists, stood on the red carpet, among world leaders and many reporters.
The most famous of them is Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old activist from Sweden who was chosen for the Times Person of the Year, making headlines for the past two years while calling out world leaders to take action. Thunberg was joined by Loukina Tille (18) from Switzerland, Isabelle Axelsson (18) from Sweden, Luisa Neubauer (23) from Germany, and Vanessa Nakate (22) from Uganda. During the ceremony, the ladies were photographed by the US news agency AP; Later, the photo released was edited, with Nakate being cut out, with the four European women left.
The agency’s choice to cut Nakate out of the picture is just a symbol of a complex and problematic issue. Western countries and their media outlets are simply ignoring Africa’s existence when it comes to the climate crisis.
Today, African residents are at center stage when it comes to the massive effects of climate change, as Nakate claimed in the comment video posted after the photo was released. The climbing temperatures and diminishing rainfall are affecting the local population, most of whom earn a living from agriculture, much more severely than in other countries around the world. While many warn about the world that we will leave behind for generations to come, the people of Africa are suffering from the effects of the climate crisis now.
Injustice is especially evident when one considers that not only are Africa’s people suffering the major consequences of the crisis, but the African states have the smallest contribution to the crisis in the first place. While the countries of Europe, America, and East Asia are directly responsible for the continuous and massive emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, African countries were responsible for only a few percent of the total global pollution. Thus, Africa’s contribution to the climate crisis is negligible at most, but its citizens suffer the most.
These details have been known to experts and scientists for a long time, but I doubt they have reached the citizens in Europe or the United States. As Western countries continue to rely on coal as a major energy source, they do not see the impact of the crisis on African counties. The reason for this lies in the same news agencies like the AP, who choose to cut Africa out of the story and focus on the Western countries for the storytelling.
Not part of the problem, yet a major part of the solution
Africa has a minor role in causing the problem, but it may and should have a major role in finding a sustainable solution. As the issue of the climate crisis becomes a leading topic of discussion among world leaders and citizens alike, many countries are looking for solutions such as changing the sources of energy they rely on, with the aim of significantly reducing the use of polluting energy sources, such as coal. The same countries are working to improve renewable energy infrastructure, most notably solar and wind energy.
Making a meaningful change is difficult, and will take a very long time. For the countries of Europe, America, and East Asia to succeed in the process, years and decades are in store. Africa, where a significant percentage of the energy sector already relies on various renewable energy solutions, can serve as a global example with its advanced energy sector becoming exclusively based on clean and renewable energy.
The AP agency, the Western media, and Western countries in general have become accustomed to ignoring Africa and the suffering of its residents due to the climate crisis. Now, Africa needs to demand the status it deserves - not just inside the picture, but at its center, as a major force, leading the entire world toward a cleaner, more sustainable future.