Harun Momanyi is one of the three Kenyans recently appointed as a Global School Ambassador under the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth Initiative (SDSN Youth).
The program seeks to educate and engage students and young people with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as they provide a framework for a better world that they could live in the future.
The 24-year-old journalist had a chat with Business Insider SSA where he spoke about his passion for these global goals and what he intends to achieve in his new role.
The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Among the many hats you wear is being an SDG advocate. How did you figure out your passion for the global goals?
Being a journalist, I discovered that along the way, a career cannot be fulfilling without giving back to the society. I therefore decided to venture into social missions and more so youth empowerment, which enabled me familiarise myself better with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 — quality education.
We are heading towards the fourth industrial revelation that will be based on technology and soft skills and hence my main agenda is to create a generation that will focus on education as a tool to change the society.
What was the driving force behind it?
I learnt about SDGs while in my pursuit for education. It wasn’t smooth sailing as I dropped out of high school due to lack of fees. The same scenario happened while I was seeking a degree in campus. These experiences made me realise that many people do not have access to education thus lack full knowledge about SDGs.
I therefore became a passionate advocate of these global goals in the hope that such people will get quality education and become responsible citizens who will contribute to a sustainable planet.
Tell us about your new role as a UN Global School Ambassador, how did you land it in the first place?
The Global Schools Program is part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Youth initiative and seeks to raise awareness about SDGs in schools. So when I learnt that they needed ambassadors for the program, I did not hesitate to apply for the position. I, however, wasn’t expecting to be selected seeing that it is quite a demanding role.
As ambassadors, we empower teachers from various schools with tools necessary for educating students about sustainable development. I am one of the three ambassadors in Kenya while in Africa we have eight representatives. It was quite a humbling experience given that previous attempts to apply for similar positions weren’t successful.
What do you aim to achieve in this new role?
Among the things I plan to accomplish is work selflessly to make sure as many schools in Kenya are fully aware of SDGs.
And by this, I mean the little things that contribute to a sustainable planet — whether it is through conserving water to avoid scarcity or ensuring young people take up technical courses to fight youth unemployment.
What challenges have you encountered so far?
Lack of funding since this is a voluntary role. But I am in talks with a few corporates in the hope that I’ll get the much needed support to traverse various schools across the country.
One of the most important SDGs to Kenya is decent work and economic growth. However, economic inequality is at an all-time high and could pose a threat to the country’s Vision 2030 goals. How can the government turn this around?
One of the things hindering this goal is corruption. It is quite hard to land even the simplest of jobs in Kenya without ‘parting with something in return.’
However, as part of measures to fight economic inequality, I believe the government should increase technical courses in higher institutions of learning. Doing so will give rise to a new wave of entrepreneurs and thus fight unemployment in the country.
In the recent World Poverty Clock ranking of countries with extreme poverty, Africa had 7 representatives in the top 10 list. What informs this startling statistic?
If you look at the recent SDG dashboard index, which indicates how countries are faring with regards to achieving sustainable goals, it is clear that African nations are lagging behind. The main reason being lack of financing for the SDGs as most of the cash borrowed from foreign states goes into long-term infrastructure projects or in other instances ends up being looted.
I think it’s high time African governments adopted a public-private partnership (PPP) model which will reduce foreign borrowing and create tangible funds to finance SDGs.
As the Head of Kenya with Reform Africa Group, how do you seek to address youth unemployment in the country?
I intend to incorporate one of my personal initiatives into the group — fashion blogging. The plan is to work with models in the fashion industry and train them on how to build their online brands. Doing so will go a long way in tackling SDG goal number 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).
Do you think Africa is making progress in terms of achieving the vision of the UN’s SDGs?
We are making slow but steady progress as compared to other developed nations that are well positioned to finance SDGs. I am in talks with a few companies as I look to hold workshops in order to create more awareness on SDGs which can only be achieved by having all parties involved.