African RCEs Discuss Ways to Upscale Impacts, Youth Engagement, and Global Integration

The 8th African RCE Meeting was held at the Chancellor College in Zomba, Malawi from 8th – 10th August, 2018. The meeting was hosted by RCE Zomba, whose secretariat is based at Chancellor College, Faculty of Science, with support from the United Nations Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), the Government of Malawi, the network LEAD, the University of Malawi, and Malawi Environmental Endowment Trust under the theme, ‘Upscaling the Impact of African RCEs in Actualising the SDGs’.

Representatives from the African RCEs and other institutions working on sustainability issues met to share experiences and discuss the ways towards amplifying the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) actions, to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at local, regional and global levels.

The meeting was officially opened by Mr Bright Kumwembe, Chief Director for Environment and Climate Change Management. In his message, he emphasised that ESD is at the centre for achieving the SDGs. Therefore he was grateful that Malawi was hosting the 8th African RCE meeting and encouraged the participants to translate knowledge into action.

In addition, in the opening remarks, the Vice Principal of Chancellor College, Prof. Samson Sajidu, praised the role of the RCEs in bridging the local community and the academy, and in building the capacity of both the faculty members and the students in finding solutions for the current issues affecting the local and global livelihoods. Furthermore, Mr. Bright Kumwembe acknowledged the contribution of the RCEs to the work national governments have been engaging on, concerning the challenges of sustainable development.

A total of 52 participants, including local and international participants, took part in the 3-day meeting, with over 15 presentations from 10 RCEs – RCE Minna, RCE Swaziland (eSwatini), RCE Zomba, RCE Zaria, RCE Greater Nairobi, RCE Lusaka, RCE Greater Yenagoa, RCE South Rift, RCE Greater Uganda, and RCE Buea; the RCE Advisors – Prof. Akpezi and Prof. Goolam; and, a representative from UNU-IAS, a postdoctoral fellow from the ESD project, Dr. Leticia dos Muchangos.

The meeting also featured a keynote address by Prof. Chiotha from RCE Zomba, on the impact and structure of the RCEs, and the launch of a book entitled 'Lessons from Lake Chilwa Basin Climate Change Adaptation Programme'.

In addition, Dr. Chimère, Director General of the African Model Forests Network, facilitated a workshop introducing the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) to the RCEs and the guidelines to get involved.

The main topics covered by the RCE presentations included the following themes:

  • Communities creating and maintaining sustainable environments (urban and peri-urban management, ecosystems protection, health and nutrition).
  • Cross-cutting and novel initiatives (technology use, gender issues, youth empowerment).
  • Sustainable management of natural and waste resources (plastic waste management, participatory approaches, regulatory frameworks for the SDGs).

The key recommendations from the meeting include the following:

  • A need for the youth to take a leading role and engage in sustainable decision-making processes, as well as, becoming agents of change, making use of relatable and exciting tools for ESD, taking into consideration the favourable context of an existing large African youth population.
  • Youth in academia should reach out to the youth in rural areas and assist them to utilise their indigenous knowledge into actions that would actually transform the communities.
  • There is a need to establish collaboration among stakeholders within an RCE, to ensure collaboration towards common goals, and the identification of in-house solutions to some of the challenges that are faced by RCEs.
  • Struggling RCEs should be willing to learn from those that are thriving.
  • RCEs should leverage the existing human potential to bring solutions to the challenges, targeting the establishment of a sustainable network, with fewer external intervention and aid; and also by mainstreaming sustainability issues into curricula at all levels of education.

Insights from the RCE Advisors

In the first presentation from the RCE community advisors, Prof. Goolam explained the genesis and development of the RCE movement, including the role of the RCE Global Service Centre, the Ubuntu Committee of Peers for the RCEs, the current African RCEs, and the local RCE Secretariats. He also pointed out the need for the RCEs to work towards recognition by the African Union Organisation and to link their activities and collaborate with other agencies of the United Nations systems.

On the other hand, Prof. Akpezi brought up the necessity of leadership training to empower the RCEs in general and to guarantee the engagement and increased sense of ownership of youth members in particular. Additional recommendations included: the need to adequately consider and integrate traditional knowledge in RCEs’ work, the data sharing within the region, and the expansion of multi-stakeholder collaborations. At the end of the intervention, she highlighted the urgency in creating sustainable and autonomous local secretariats that can maximise efforts in conjunction with UNU-IAS.

Youth Engagement

On the last day, a panel discussion organised and led by the youth took place. The youth representatives from RCE Zomba, RCE Greater Uganda, RCE Lusaka, RCE Greater Nairobi, and RCE Zaria, examined both the opportunities and challenges of their work on ESD in the implementation of the SDGs. The youth recognised the importance of learning and working together with the senior members of the RCEs and the communities they work with, as well as learning from their international RCE counterparts as a means to identify and implement leapfrogging solutions. They also shared the common understanding of the importance of maintaining the momentum and to be motivated to contribute and lead RCE activities, despite the limited resources available. 

New African RCE Secretariat

Within the session for RCE deliberations, a new secretariat was elected - Chief Masango Sone of RCE Buea, Cameroon as the president of the African RCEs and Ms. Belusile Mhlanga of RCE Swaziland (eSwatini), as the vice-president. Their primary goal for this year will encompass the strengthening of the regional cohesion of the communication channels and activities, and the expansion and recognition of those activities in several international platforms, such as IPBES, and WCCD local data hubs.


The last day of the meeting included site visits to the communities benefitting from the projects conducted by RCE Zomba and their partners.

The African RCE delegates had the chance to engage and listen in person from:

  • A successful conservation agriculture farmer who has been practicing for over six years.
  • The management of an Automated Weather Station at
    Malosa EPA, to learn how extension workers are managing data
    on weather and using it for example in climate change mitigation
    and adaptation.
  • A community involved in a river bank afforestation project.

Outcomes from the meeting can be found here. Photos from the meeting have also been uploaded on Facebook here.

Photos taken by Chancellor College (top left) and UNU-IAS (bottom right)