Kenya: Sustainable Development…Empowering African Youth

Jonas Yawovi Dzinekou MCCJ

Climate change is profoundly impacting African realities. At the latest COP in Sharm-el-Sheikh and Dubai, African governments and civil society vigorously advocated for climate justice, emphasizing adaptation to climate change and reparations for losses and damages due to extreme weather and slow-onset events. Catholic actors have also begun organizing forums to advocate for ecological conversion and connect local communities with decision-makers and international negotiations.

However, African Christian communities often struggle to grasp the urgency and seriousness of our common home’s challenges. This is partly due to the difficulty in seeing the connection between pastoral work and integral ecology. Additionally, socioeconomic crises and hardships often drain the energy of these communities. Yet, these challenges also present an opportunity to promote ecological conversion.

For instance, African communities have a significant youth population, with a median age of around 20 years old. This demographic represents a vast reservoir of energy, creativity, and the ability to envision a different future. However, this potential often goes untapped, with youth feeling marginalized in terms of employment opportunities, representation, and participation, burdened by high poverty levels. The challenge lies in ensuring that young people are actively engaged in transforming society. This is where initiatives like the Comboni Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) come into play, focusing on youth empowerment and participation to build a sustainable and just future.

CASE aims to harness the potential of Catholic youth through social entrepreneurship, which emphasizes economic, social, and environmental returns—the so-called “triple bottom line.” This approach aligns with the principles of the Economy of Francis, a global youth movement convened by Pope Francis to promote an alternative economy.

In particular, CASE is promoting the 3Zero Club among youth, inspired by Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus’ vision of creating a world of three zeros: zero net carbon emissions, zero wealth concentration to end poverty, and zero unemployment through entrepreneurship.

In Kenya, the 3Zero Club initiative has successfully implemented educational programs and community outreach initiatives and established clubs within various communities and organizations. CASE, in collaboration with Agromwinda in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), plans to expand the initiative to other African countries such as DR Congo, Chad, Central African Republic, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo, and Benin over the next three years. The project aims to create a Pan-African youth movement to achieve the three zeros.

The goal is to empower youth within the Church community to address social and environmental challenges and contribute to the well-being of parishes and communities. Recognizing youth as pastoral agents requires capacity building, including training, resources, and support to equip them with the skills and knowledge for social transformation.

The 3Zero Club engages youth as problem solvers and agents of change in their parishes, providing them with the resources and support to innovate and drive positive change. Placing youth at the center of development has effectively addressed pressing societal challenges such as unemployment, poverty, and environmental degradation. The vision is to create a world where youth lead development through social innovation and address the climate crisis. Globally, the initiative has empowered 10,000 youth to address societal problems actively.

In conclusion, this initiative seeks to bridge pastoral work in Africa with the urgency and demands of ecological conversion and sustainable development. While 3Zero Clubs are civil society initiatives, they play a crucial role in faith-inspired social transformation, linking Christian spirituality, faith experience, and evangelization to the pressing issues of our time.

Br. Jonas Yawovi Dzinekou MCCJ