Young people make an important target group within the demand side in this consumer society and play a determinant role in future consumption patterns. Yet they are not given the special attention they deserve when considering consumption patterns. In most cases they are regarded as ‘victims’ of contemporary consumer culture.
However, while some young people are more concerned about the future of the earth they will inherit, some others are taking initiatives in proposing alternatives to this “consume more “ trend. This later group can thus become messengers of a new approach that can infect their peers as well as adults. Therefore, understanding consumption patterns of the African youth is of great relevance for the analysis of macro policy and economic trends in Africa and world wide.
This understanding involves addressing the following issues.
Awareness. How do young people link their day- to-day actions with the environment, human rights and other social issues? Do they realize that their choice and behavior have an impact on people and the environment?
Sense of empowerment: Do they feel they have the power to change things as individuals and or as a group? How do they intend to act?
Differences in countries. How are these questions answered in different cultural areas? Does the difference depend on the role of youth in the country, religion, or level of democracy?
Policy tools. How can policy-making impact youth consumption patterns? What are the best strategies for enabling future action in education and advocacy?
Future Action. The following proposals for future action are hereby made:
1. Immediate formation of youth exchange partnership and launch of an on-line platform which will offer an online ‘territory’ for the exchange of ideas, visions and projects to youths from all over Africa and beyond. This partnership will provide youths, communicators, teachers and consumer organizations with the tools to communicate efficiently about sustainable consumption.
2. Organizing series of workshops/ webinars to campaign on shopping and to enable the youths from all over Africa to meet, exchange perspectives and experiences on their different consumption patterns and envision concrete solutions to the imbalances in their access to basic needs.
3. Introducing sustainable consumption into school curricula and providing training materials and teacher kits. Such curricula should translate the implications of unsustainable daily choices in facts and figures easy to visualize; focus on the empowerment of youth in changing consumption patterns by outlining the “do’s” rather than “don’ts”; be adaptable to the local differences and to the various ways of delivering the sustainable consumption message in different cultural areas.
This capacity building process will definitely stem from the provision of awareness raising material and of a space for the exchange of experiences among the African youth. In this regard, the interactive internet communications will be the essential asset to rely on.