Vanessa Nakate. Climate Activist

She is much more than an African Greta Thunberg because the reality of the continent is more complex than that of Europe when reflecting on the effects of climate change.

But the Swedish activist inspired her to take action when, in 2018, temperatures began to rise in Kampala (Uganda) and she decided to go on hunger strike in front of Parliament to criticize the inadequacies of African governments regarding the climate.

Although she has not yet turned thirty, Vanessa Nakate is already a point of reference in international forums. She founded the Youth for Africa’s Future and the Rise Up Movement, is the spokesperson for the Fridays for Future (founded by Thunberg) and participated in the latest United Nations conferences on climate change, where she protested because the most polluting countries on the planet, led by The United States, do not keep their economic promises to those who suffer the most: only 4% of global pollution is attributed to the African continent.

“My country relies heavily on agriculture, most people living in villages and rural communities struggle to get food due to high prices. Lack of rain means hunger and death for the less privileged,” she said in an interview.

Based on the evidence, Nakate insists on how climate change will expose 118 million of the poorest Africans to drought, floods and extreme heat by 2030. The young Ugandan activist is part of a network of local activists who demand action that cannot wait. “Instead of asking how far climate activism has to go, we need to ask how far environmental destruction has to go before our leaders wake up and do what is necessary to combat the problem,” she declared to Future Planet last year.

In 2021 she published the book A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis, which encapsulates what she has learned from her years of activism: the certainty of increasing poverty and inequality generated by climate change, as in the case of the Congo River rainforest, which by the year 2100 could lose thousands of plant and animal species on which 70 million people depend. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2020, she denounced racist treatment by the media when she was cut out of a photograph in which she appeared with other young climate activists.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2022 and recognized in 2021 by Time magazine as one of the 100 global leaders, Nakate has managed in five years, through her Vash Green Schools project, to operationalize 39 solar panel installations in Ugandan schools. “I am a terribly shy person, but I found the strength and courage to make a banner and stand before Parliament in 2019. No voice is too small to make a difference and no action is too small to transform the world,” she declared in a forum after recalling that her activist friend Evelyn always says that “we can’t eat coal and drink oil, and money will be useless on a dead planet.” (Carla Fibla García-Sala) – (Illustration: Tina Ramos Ekongo)