Pollution, access to drinking water, corporate social responsibility, the rights of indigenous populations in the face of the extractive industry... The environmental stakes are immense in Africa. The continent, engaged in its energy transition, must also reconcile economic development and environmental preservation. Chancia Ivala Plaine, a lawyer specialising in environmental law, has joined forces with other young practitioners to create the African Youth Association for the Environment (JAE). In this interview with Afrik 21, she explains the purpose of this initiative.
Afrik 21: How do young people perceive environmental issues in Africa today?
Chancia Ivala Plaine: Those I know perceive them as urgent. For example, the young people of the association Les éco-activistes du Congo, which works to raise awareness among young people in their neighbourhoods in Kinshasa, feel environmental problems every day, especially those related to water pollution. These young people are setting up programmes to dig wells and enable certain populations in Kinshasa to have access to water. Here, for example, it is an environmental health issue. Overall, the young people want to act through associative initiatives.
How was your African Youth for the Environment (JAE) association born?
In november 2019, I was invited to give a conference in Cameroon on the rights of indigenous peoples in the face of extractive activities in Africa. I met several young practitioners with whom we held a workshop and met other African personalities working in the literary and philosophical fields. With these young people, we said to ourselves that we could create something to continue the movement that is being promoted in Cameroon. This is where the African Youth Association for the Environment (JAE) was born.
There is a plethora of associations that are working for the environment in Africa. How is JAE different?
Our objective is to bring about reflection, to unite young people who can reflect on environmental issues, through a magazine that we have launched, the first edition of which is entitled: “The place of African countries in climate issues”. We have received contributions from young practitioners from various countries, who have discussed this theme in the areas of expertise that interest them, including economics, law, social sciences, and other themes, with the environment as a common focal point.
And so, we provide a platform for generational exchange and reflection. JAE concerns young people and practitioners living both in Africa and in the diaspora. It enables these young people to interact on environmental issues in Africa.
Beyond youth interaction. Does the JAE association plan other activities on the African continent?
With its head office in Paris, the association has established relations with partners including the RES Benin association. It organised a webinar last September in which the African Youth for the Environment (JAE) spoke about the environmental aspect of sustainable development objectives (SDOs). We collaborate with other associations at conferences. I hope later to go to Africa for field actions on waste and recycling. For the moment, we are carrying out reflection and popularisation actions through the magazine, conferences and everything we do in association with other partners.
Who writes in the JAE magazine?
Contributions come from members of the magazine. Non-members are also allowed to contribute in an edition. For example, on January 15th, we will be launching a call for contributions for the second issue of the journal, which will focus on agriculture. We are publishing it in partnership with the journal of a university in France. The journal also allows us to collaborate with other associations in France, which are not African, but which are also interested in environmental issues in Africa.
Interviewed and Written by Jean Marie Takouleu